Investigates to determine cause, manner and mechanism of death in cases resulting from violence, unrecognizable disease, disability or infirmity, deaths under suspicious or unusual circumstances or deaths within 24 hours of admission to a hospital or without medical assistance.
Frequently Asked Questions:
People who come to the Union County Medical Examiner’s Office (“UCMEO”) to make an identification often have questions about procedures. This has been prepared to answer some of the questions that may arise.
Bodies of deceased persons are brought to this office because the law requires that the County Medical Examiner investigate deaths of persons dying from criminal violence, by accident, by suicide, suddenly when in apparent health, when unattended by a physician, in a correctional facility, or in any suspicious or unusual manner. The medical examiner is responsible for determining the cause and manner of death.
A body also may be brought to the Union County Medical Examiner’s Office if the identity of the deceased or of the next of kin is unknown. The body is retained by this office for a reasonable period of time before interment at City Cemetery or until the next of kin can be located by the Police Department and identification established and funeral arrangements made. Back to top of web page
Identification is necessary in order to establish that the person reported to UCMEO as having died is, in fact, that person, and to complete the certificate of death. Back to top of web page
The person making the identification first will be asked to give certain information about him/herself as well as about the deceased person. Once the information has been recorded, the identifying person will view a photograph of the deceased person (taken at UCMEO) in order to complete the identification process. As a general rule, the photograph is of the face only; occasionally, it will be of a mark such as a tattoo or scar. Back to top of web page
You will be seen by a member of the UCMEO as soon as reasonably possible. The office operates during weekdays, and special request for weekends can be arranged.
Monday – Friday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Saturday, Sunday, & holidays 9:00 am – 1:00 pm
Jocelyn Joseph (morgue technician): 908-307-1059
An autopsy is a systematic examination of the body of a deceased person by a qualified pathologist. Performance of an autopsy does not interfere with having the body on view at the funeral. The body is inspected for the presence of disease or injury; specimens of the vital organs and/or body fluids may be taken for microscopic, chemical, or other tests. In some instances, an organ such as a brain or heart may be retained for further diagnostic tests. These diagnostic tests are conducted after release of the body to the next of kin. After the body is released to next of kin, a family may contact the Union County Medical Examiner’s Office to request the return of any organs and/or tissue specimens.
A written record is made of the autopsy findings including the microscopic and laboratory tests, and the reports of consultants (if applicable). Copies of these reports are available upon request by next of kin or other authorized individuals. Back to top of web page
Autopsies are conducted for a variety of reasons. The primary concern is to determine cause and manner of death. Did the death result from disease, injury, a combination of both, or another cause altogether? When death results from chemical agents, the autopsy permits us to obtain biological samples for testing in the laboratory, and to evaluate the effects of the chemical agents on vital organs. When death results from physical injuries, the autopsy frequently provides a means to reconstruct the fatal incident. The autopsy serves the best interests of the public, and of the family, by answering a multitude of pressing and important questions.
When the next of kin objects to an autopsy, UCMEO makes every effort to honor that objection. However, if we cannot fulfill our legal and public responsibility without performing an autopsy, if the family has raised a viable religious objection (i.e., based on Judaism, Islam, Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witness, or 7th Day Adventist) they will be provided an opportunity to hire an attorney, if they desire, and to present their objection to a Judge who will determine whether an autopsy will be performed. Objections to autopsy which are not based on religious beliefs have no standing in the law. Back to top of web page
By law, the medical examiner may release a body only to a New Jersey State licensed funeral director. Once identification is completed, you should notify your funeral director who, in turn, will arrange to transport the body to the funeral home and obtain the documents necessary for burial or cremation. In accordance with the wishes of the next of kin, arrangements can be made with the funeral home for transportation of the body for disposition out of state or out of the country. Back to top of web page
Usually, the next of kin discusses the selection of a funeral director with other members of the family, friends, and/or clergy. Staff of the Union County Medical Examiner’s Office are prohibited from recommending a funeral director. Back to top of web page
If you have any questions regarding personal property, you may ask a staff member when you are being interviewed.
If the deceased died while in the hospital or nursing home, or death was pronounced upon arrival at a hospital, personal property is safeguarded there. UCMEO staff will provide you with the name and phone number of the hospital administrator to contact. If the death is a homicide, personal property may be held by Union County Prosecutor’s Office until the close of the criminal prosecution. Back to top of web page
Copies of the death certificate can be obtained through the funeral home or Board of Health from the city in which the subject died. Back to top of web page
Completed autopsy and toxicology reports can be obtained by immediate family members to: Union County Medical Examiner’s Office, 300 North Avenue East, Westfield, New Jersey 07090; phone: 908-654-9893 and fax: 908-654-9898
Please include in your request:
1. The name of the deceased
2. Medical Examiner case number (available from the death certificate)
3. Date and location of death
4. Your name and relationship to the deceased
5. A copy of a photo ID (license, passport, work ID, etc.)
Note: Autopsy reports may only be requested by next of kin.
If you want these reports sent to someone other than yourself (e.g., to an attorney or an insurance company), your signature on the request must be notarized. Back to top of web page
If you have any other questions or problems, the following agencies may be able to assist you:
Office of the State Medical Examiner: 609-984-1060 Fax: 609-292-5372
Union County Prosecutor’s Office: 908-527-4500
New Jersey SIDS Center:(For families whose infant died due to SIDS – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or “Crib Death”): 800-545-7437 or 732-249-2160