Frequently Asked Questions

What is an autopsy?

An autopsy is a medical procedure in which a deceased person's body is studies by a doctor for the purpose of diagnosing disease, determining the presence or absence of injury, and analyzing the chemical composition of bodily fluids for medical information. (KRS 72). (See also The National Association of Medical Examiners)

What is the difference between a forensic autopsy and a hospital autopsy?

As required by statute, a forensic autopsy is conducted to establish the cause and manner of death, to collect trace evidence, to document physical findings, and to answer other medical and legal questions. A hospital autopsy is often performed when the cause of a person's death is known. The purpose of this autopsy is to obtain unknown facts about a disease and/or the effects of a therapy used to treat it. (See also The National Association of Medical Examiners)

Is a forensic autopsy required for all deaths?

No. In many cases here in Kentucky a county coroner has the authority to decide if an autopsy is necessary. By statute (KRS 72) in some cases, a death must be investigated by forensic specialists.

Who authorizes a forensic autopsy?

The coroner/deputy coroner in the county in which the death occurs (KRS 72).

What is a coroner?

A coroner is a public official, appointed or elected, in a particular geographic jurisdiction, whose official duty is to investigate deaths under circumstances specified by statute (KRS 72).

Who does a forensic autopsy?

Doctors who are employed by or affiliated with the Kentucky Office of the Medical Examiner perform autopsies. These doctors are specially trained forensic pathologists, and they are experts in anatomical and forensic pathology (See also The National Association of Medical Examiners). A forensic anthropologist who is employed by the Kentucky Office of the Medical Examiner may also assist a pathologist when the deceased person's body is decomposed or severely burned. The anthropologist is the Office's primary investigator when skeletal remains must be studied. (See also American Board of Forensic Anthropology)

Where are forensic autopsies conducted?

Forensic autopsies are conducted by a specialist at one of the Kentucky Office of the Medical Examiner's four regional facilities. These facilities are located in Louisville, Frankfort, Madisonville, and Fort Thomas.

How do I obtain information about a forensic autopsy?

Contact the coroner in the county where the death occurred. The coroner may refer you to a forensic specialist. You can also request an autopsy report by submitting a written request to:

Central Laboratory Facility
Kentucky State Medical Examiner's Office
100 Sower Blvd., Suite 202
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601-8272

Access to the records of the Office of the Medical Examiner is limited by the Kentucky Revised Statutes. Your request will be reviewed by the Office of General Counsel at the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.

Are all forensic autopsy reports subject to the open records law?

No. If a death investigation is still open(on-going) the autopsy report and all related records may remain confidential until the investigation and all related legal proceedings are concluded.

Coroners Directory
Need to locate a coroner in Kentucky? Click the following link to view or download the directory for 2017:

KENTUCKY MASTER CORONER LIST
Contact Us
Brian Ritchie, Executive Secretary
(502) 839-5151
KY_Coroners_Assoc@yahoo.com
Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
or
John P. Northcutt, Association President
(606) 784-6491
rowancoroner@rowancoroner.com
Morehead, Kentucky