Dr. Jennifer Gardetto
1. What hours are you open?
Our office is open to the general public 8 AM to 5 PM,
Monday through Friday, except major holidays. After hours, calls to
the office are routed to an answering service and are limited to those
individuals or agencies reporting a death.
2. Where is the Pima County Office of the
Medical Examiner (OME) located?
The Office of the Medical Examiner is located at 2825
E. District Street, Tucson, Arizona 85714 within the University Medical Center - South Campus complex immediately south of the Abrams Public Health
Center. The OME main telephone number is 520-243-8600.
3. Why is a body brought to the Medical Examiner's
Arizona law (ARS 11-593) requires that certain deaths
be reported to OME. Upon the reporting of a death, a medical examiner
investigator will determine whether jurisdiction will be accepted.
If jurisdiction is accepted, the body will be transported to OME for
autopsy or external examination.
4. Will acceptance of a case by the Medical
Examiner's Office mean that organ or tissue donation cannot
No. The Medical Examiner's Office works closely
with local organ and tissue procurement organizations to ensure that
these anatomical gifts occur whenever possible. Our staff will coordinate
with personnel from these organizations to maximize the chance of organ
and tissue recovery.
5. How is the body transported to the Medical
A Forensic Medical Investigator or a contracted transport
agent will retrieve the decedent from the scene of the death. The Medical
Examiner pays directly for these services and it is not the responsibility
of the family.
6. My loved one has died and he/she has been
brought to the Medical Examiner's Office. What should I do
First, you need to select a funeral home and notify the
funeral director that the death is being handled by OME. The legal
next of kin must also sign a release form at the funeral home authorizing
OME to release the body to the selected funeral home.
7. What is an autopsy?
An autopsy is a systemic examination of the body of a
deceased person by a licensed physician. At the Pima County Medical
Examiner's Office, this physician is a trained Forensic Pathologist.
The body is examined externally and internally for presence of disease
or injury and appropriate specimens of vital organs and/or bodily fluids
are retained for microscopic, chemical, or other tests. These tests
are performed following conclusion of the examination and do not delay
the release of the body to the next of kin. An autopsy examination
does not preclude a viewing by the family at the funeral home.
8. Is an autopsy required?
No. The decision to perform an autopsy is made by the
forensic pathologist on call. An autopsy is not normally performed
when the death is known to be a result of natural causes, sufficient
medical history exists and there are no signs of foul play. Many deaths
investigated by the Medical Examiner's Office that are not ultimately
autopsied are deaths when an individual has no personal physician who
is available or willing to sign his/her death certificate. The Pima
County Medical Examiner's Office currently autopsies between
60 and 70% of individuals whose deaths are investigated.
9. Are all individuals autopsied?
No. The legal next-of-kin should voice an objection
to an autopsy with the Medical Examiner's Office by calling 520-243-8600
as soon as possible. The Medical Examiner's Office is sensitive
to the religious and cultural needs of families and will seriously
consider any objection to the procedure. Nevertheless, in many cases
an autopsy is mandated by the circumstances of the death and we will
be unable to comply with the family's request.
10. Is it necessary for me to identify the
body at the Medical Examiner's Office?
No. In the vast majority of cases, identification has
been confirmed prior to the arrival of the deceased at OME. Occasionally,
we will request a family member to come to our facility when the remains
are those of an unidentified person. An immediate family member may request an identification meeting. At such meeting, viewing of photographs or distinguishing marks of the deceased will be performed with the purpose of establishing or confirming identity. Identification meetings will occur within forty-eight hours, excluding weekends and legal holidays.(ARS 11-597.01)
11. May I view my loved one at the Medical
Viewing of decedents at the Medical Examiner's
Office is reserved for those individuals whose identity has not yet
been confirmed. Please contact the funeral home that you have selected
to arrange for any other viewing.
12. Is there a charge for a Medical Examiner
No. The cost for autopsies performed at OME are paid
for by our tax dollars.
13. When will the body be released from the
Medical Examiner's Office?
Nearly all individuals are available for release within
24 – 48 hours after arrival. Occasionally, a body may need to
be held longer than this to allow for additional forensic testing or
for other special procedures necessary to confirm the identity of the
14. How can I retrieve my loved one's
The deceased's personal property will be released
to the funeral home that you have selected. In some cases, personal
possessions are released to an investigating law enforcement agency
15. If we have no money for burial, to whom
can we turn for assistance?
The Pima County Public Fiduciary's Office may be
able to assist families with financial limitations. They can be reached
16. With whom may I speak about the death?
You may contact OME at 520-243-8600 and ask to speak
to a medical investigator between the hours of 8 AM and 5 PM, Monday
through Friday, except major holidays.
17. Can I obtain a copy of the autopsy report?
Yes. Arizona law states that medical examiner autopsy
reports are public records. A completed autopsy report may not be immediately
available particularly in cases in which there is an on-going police
investigation. Non-family members may incur a nominal charge for copies.
18. How long does it take to receive an autopsy
Most autopsy reports are completed and are generally
available to the public within 6 to 8 weeks. In certain cases, particularly
those that require extensive additional testing, this may take significantly
19. Why is it taking so long to get results?
While the actual autopsy rarely takes longer than a few
hours, the follow-up analysis, studies, tests, and consultations may
take several weeks. Following the completion of the autopsy, the findings
must be dictated, transcribed, proofread, and then signed. Additional
studies such as toxicology , histology (microscopic analysis) and microbiology
cultures are not done on site and are sent out to a contracted forensic
laboratory. When completed, materials are returned for interpretation
and are incorporated into the final results.
20. Where do I obtain a copy of the death
Copies of death certificates can be requested through
your funeral director. Alternatively, you may call Pima County Vital
Records at 520-243-7930.
21. If the cause and/or manner of death of
my loved one is "pending", how can I initiate getting
my financial affairs in order (insurance, Social Security, etc…)?
If further information is needed by an insurance company
or others in order to settle estates or other business matters, the
Medical Examiner's Office will work directly with those entities
to answer any concerns. Vital Records (520-243-7930) or your selected funeral home will be able to provide you with a copy of the pending death certificate if proof of death is all that is needed. If
you continue to experience problems with your insurance company regarding
a "pending" death certificate, please contact us and we
will do our best to help move along the process. While the cause of
death may be clearly evident at the time of autopsy or shortly thereafter
from the follow-up studies, the manner of death may require additional
consultation. The circumstances of the death are paramount in deciding
whether the manner of death is homicide, accident, suicide, or natural.
Inquiries into the law enforcement and medical communities and gathering
of their reports important for manner of death determination takes
22. I am very interested in getting into
the field of forensics. Do you offer internship opportunities?
Yes, but the only opportunities offered at the Office
of the Medical Examiner at the present time are for those in residency
programs in Pathology and for Ph.D. candidates in Forensic Anthropology.
While we appreciate the intense interest in the field, most recently
popularized by a multitude of television programs, privacy of our decedents
remains our greatest concern.
2825 E. District St.
Tucson, AZ 85714