Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I'm the Next-of-Kin and I don't know what to do.  Where do I start?
A:  Your first step should probably be to select a funeral home or cremation society.
Q: What if we can't afford to pay for a funeral?
A: Lee County has an Indigent Burial/Cremation Program you may consider.
Q: When can I view the body?
A: At the funeral home.  Except for purposes of identifying a decedent, we strongly discourage viewings at the Medical Examiner Office.  Our cases frequently involve trauma to the body and are in no condition for viewing.  We do not prepare bodies for viewing.  That is the job of the funeral home.
Q: Where are the decedent's personal effects?
A: If a law enforcement agency is involved in the case they might retain some personal effects as evidence.  Otherwise, we release all personal effects that arrived with the body to the funeral home or cremation society the family has selected.
Q: What about medications that were removed?
A: Medications are taken into evidence by law enforcement officers or Medical Examiner personnel and transported with the body to the Medical Examiner's office. They are inventoried and then destroyed after final disposition of the case. Medications are not returned to family members. If the family insists, they will be returned to the prescribing physician who may represcribe them at his discretion.
Q: What if we don't want an autopsy performed?
A: Before consideration is given to deferring the autopsy, it must be ascertained that the manner of death is clear, that there is no suspicion of foul play, and that no disservice would be done to the interests of the public or other persons such as might be the case in certain motor vehicle fatalities.  In cases where the Manner of Death is Homicide or Accident, the Medical Examiner is required by law to perform an autopsy. In the other cases, the Medical Examiner may decide an autopsy is necessary to determining the Manner and Cause of Death.  It is the policy of the District 21 Medical Examiner's Office to perform only complete autopsies. An autopsy will be performed whenever the death is known or suspected to be of unnatural causes, whether from homicide, suicide, or accident. All suspected SIDS deaths will be autopsied. Falls resulting in hip fractures in the elderly are an exception. Such deaths usually do not require autopsy. Sudden deaths apparently due to natural causes are evaluated on an individual basis.
Q: Doesn't performing an autopsy make it impossible for the funeral home to prepare the body for viewing?
A: No.  Our techniques are unobtrusive.  If the body was a suitable candidate for viewing prior to the autopsy, it will be after the autopsy, too.
Q: Why does it take so long for toxicology tests?
A: We don't have the facilities to do these tests in-house.  Therefore the specimens must be sent to a laboratory, tested, and if the results are positive and the Medical Examiner needs the results quantified, additional tests may need to be performed, perhaps by yet another laboratory.
Q: What if I don't agree with the Medical Examiner's findings?
A: Absent new evidence that alters circumstances, the Medical Examiner's rulings are not subject to appeal or revision.  Any concerns should be addressed to the:

Medical Examiners Commission
Florida Department of Law Enforcement
2331 Phillips Road
P.O. Box 1489
Tallahassee, Florida  32302