Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office?
- May I view my loved one at the Medical Examiner’s Office?
- How long do I have to make funeral arrangements for my loved one?
- Are autopsies done on all cases? May I request an autopsy be performed or not performed?
- Will an autopsy interfere with an open casket viewing?
- What do I do when a loved one dies and is taken to the Medical Examiner’s Office?
- What if I don’t have financial means for funeral service/burial/cremation?
- Is it necessary for me to come to the Medical Examiner’s Office to identify my loved one?
- Are medications confiscated by the Medical Examiner returned?
- If there is biohazard at the scene, who will clean it up?
- How do I obtain my loved one’s personal belongings?
- Who can get a copy of the autopsy report? How much does it cost and how long does it take to complete?
- Where can I obtain a copy of the Death Certificate?
- What if I want to donate a body to science?
- How can I become a medical examiner?
- What types of employment opportunities are there at the Medical Examiner's Office?
The Medical Examiner's Office was established on July 1, 1956. This Office investigates the deaths of all individuals in Bexar County who die violently or suddenly and unexpectedly in order to determine the cause and manner of death.
The Investigation Section of the Office conducts scene investigations and interviews witnesses to the deaths, attending physicians, relatives and police. Based on the information gathered, a decision is made as to whether the case falls within Medical Examiner jurisdiction. If it does, the Medical Examiners will determine what type of examination is appropriate.
When an examination is conducted, body fluids and/or tissue are removed from the body and may be analyzed by the Toxicology Section to determine the presence or absence of poisons, drugs or other chemicals.
The Administrative and Clerical Sections provide support services to the Office.
No. Direct viewing is never allowed at the Medical Examiner’s Office for a variety of reasons.
Under the state law (Health and Safety Code, Title 8, Death and Disposition of the body, Chap. 711.002, (a-1)), the next of kin has six (6) days to make the decedent's funeral arrangements after the date of being notified of the death.
Autopsies are not necessarily performed in all cases. The decision to perform an autopsy is made by the Medical Examiner on duty after careful review of the details of each case. Should a family member desire for an autopsy to be performed, please contact our office and communicate your desires. The Medical Examiner will be notified and will consider the family’s preferences; however, the decision of whether or not to perform at autopsy will still rest with the pathologist.
Should the legal next of kin desire for an autopsy not to be performed, please contact the office as soon as possible and communicate your desires. We try to accommodate the family’s wishes whenever possible; however, there are circumstances when an autopsy is required.
No. If there are no injuries before the autopsy, the incisions from the autopsy are easily covered by clothing.
Select a Funeral Home and notify them that the case is being handled by the Medical Examiner’s Office. The Funeral Home will handle all the paperwork for you. In most cases, the deceased is examined and released within 24 hours. State law provides the person responsible with handling the decedent’s funeral arrangements must do so within six days of being notified of the death.
Contact the Bexar County Community Resource Office at (210) 335-0757 or the Victim Assistance Division at (210) 335-2105.
No. In most cases, visual identification is not necessary. In those rare instances when it is necessary, an Investigator will contact the next of kin and ask that a family member or acquaintance come to the office to view a photograph of the decedent for identification purposes.
No. Once the individual to whom the drugs are prescribed dies, the medications are considered a contraband substance and they are destroyed.
To have private property cleaned, you may refer to the phone book under “Crime & Trauma Scene Clean Up” Section or search the term on the Internet.
For the convenience of the family, the personal belongings are released with the body to the funeral home except in selected cases in which they are released to law enforcement agencies.
12. Who can get a copy of the autopsy report? How much does it cost and how long does it take to complete?
The autopsy report is public record. The normal completion time for an autopsy report is 8-12 weeks. Once the case is closed, anyone may request a copy by emailing our office at firstname.lastname@example.org. Certain cases may not be releasable due to objections from investigating agencies.
Death certificates may be obtained from the Bureau of Vital Statistics in the County where the death occurred. Often this service is provided by the Funeral Home handling the final arrangements.
You may contact the following:
The University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio
Body Donation Program
- OR -
Texas State University
Donations: Forensic Anthropology Center
To become a Medical Examiner, you must obtain a high school diploma, a bachelors degree, a medical degree (MD or DO), three to four years training in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology, one year of training in Forensic Pathology, and Board Certification from the American Board of Pathology.
Visit the Careers in a Medical Examiner’s Office page for more details about employment opportunities at the BCMEO.