Information for Funeral Directors

Funeral directors often are called upon to act as a liaison between the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the families of deceased residents.  Because we value our relationship with funeral service providers, we have prepared some guidelines to assist you when you are called upon to provide services to a family whose loved one has come under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner.

  • Please assure them that their loved one is being examined with the utmost care and respect.  Usually our examinations can be completed and remains released within 24 hours.  Exceptions may occur if the death falls on a weekend or if identification becomes an issue.  Regardless of the circumstances, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will work diligently to release their loved one as soon as possible. 
  • We recommend you keep a supply of our brochure “Information for Family and Friends” on hand to give to families.  It addresses concerns and questions that families have about why the medical examiner is involved in the death of their loved one. Copies are available to you free from the medical examiner’s office serving your locality.  The information also is available on our website under Information for Family and Friends.
  • It is extremely important that we maintain the chain of custody for bodies in our care.  This is especially critical when we receive a body after regular business hours.  Please remind your staff that the necessary information must be entered into the morgue record completely and legibly.
  • Before we can release remains to your funeral home, you must complete an Authorization to Body Release Form. This form is to ensure the OCME that you have been designated to provide final arrangements.  The updated form requires the funeral home or crematory to complete the form prior to the OCME releasing the decedent. The next of kin, designee, or guardian for the decedent must sign the form, followed by a funeral home or crematory representative. The form may be faxed to the medical examiner’s district office in advance or hand delivered by the driver. If you do not have a completed and signed Authorization to Body Release form, the OCME cannot release the decedent.
  • Death certificates, cremation forms and transit permits are normally released with the body. The funeral home should inquire about the death certificate while making the arrangements to pick up the body. The death certificate will be in Virginia’s EDRS and can be transferred to your funeral home, or dropped to paper.
  • A death certificate that is designated “pending” means that the medical examiner is conducting further inquiries or is waiting to receive the results of certain tests that will enable him to determine the cause and manner of death. 
  • If family members have further questions about these or other processes of the medical examiner, the legal next of kin may call the medical examiner’s office that is handling the case.  Or they may visit our website at www.vdh.virginia.gov/medical-examiner/.

Authorization to Body Release Form

If you ever have any questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to contact us at the district office that serves your locality.