Information for Families
Please accept our sincere condolences for your loss. Our hearts go out to your family during this time of sadness and grief.
This information is intended to answer many of the procedural questions you may have in the coming days. While we make a sincere effort to accommodate the requests of the decedent or the family, in certain circumstances, we may be unable to do so given the provisions of Arizona State Law, law enforcement, or public health implications involved in a case.
Under Arizona State Law, the Medical Examiner is both required and empowered to determine the cause and manner of certain deaths. However, be assured that we do our job with the utmost dignity and professionalism.
While we are unable to refer you to a specific funeral home, below you will find contact information for all funeral homes available in Pinal County and Gila County. You may also choose a mortuary located outside of Pinal County.
The Pinal County Public Fiduciary’s Office manages an Indigent Burial Program. For further information and qualification requirements, please call the Public Fiduciary's office at 520-866-7252 and ask to speak with someone regarding the Indigent Burials.
You may request certified copies of the death certificate from the County Department of Public Health under Vital Records. Arizona is a “closed record” state. Vital records are not public records. All requestors must be 18 years of age or older.
Who may obtain a death certificate?
- Spouse or immediate family member
- Attorney representing an estate
- Attorney representing family members
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- Non-attorney legal interest/other vital interest
- Private investigator
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Request for Identification meeting
In accordance with Arizona Revised Statute (ARS 11-597.01), an immediate family member who either questions the decedent's identification or otherwise wishes to assist in making positive identification may make a written or electronic request for an identification meeting to the Medical Examiner. Identification meetings will occur within forty-eight hours, excluding weekends and legal holidays. At the identification meeting, viewing of photographs or distinguishing marks of the deceased will be performed with the purpose of establishing or confirming identity.
Under Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) 11-593, the Medical Examiner is both required and empowered to determine the cause and manner of certain deaths. While we make a sincere effort to accommodate the requests of the decedent and the decedent’s family, in certain circumstances, we may be unable to do so given the provisions of Arizona law, law enforcement jurisdiction, or public health implications involved in a case.
An examination by a forensic pathologist will be conducted to determine the cause and manner of death and a death certificate will be completed. This examination normally occurs within three (3) days following receipt of the decedent's remains. The forensic pathologist will determine whether an autopsy and/or laboratory tests are required as part of the examination. Autopsies are generally required in approximately 65% of cases.
The Pinal County Medical Examiner's Office may take custody of or otherwise secure certain items of personal property that belonged to the decedent at the time of the scene investigation. Said property items may either be released at the scene to the legal next-of-kin or to the mortuary of your family’s choosing for delivery to the next-of-kin following the postmortem examination.
Your loved one's remains will be available for release soon after completion of the postmortem examination and upon the receipt of a signed “Authority to Release Remains” form from the representative of the mortuary or other service (e.g., cremation society, transportation service) designated in the authorization. The release form must be executed by the legal next-of-kin authorized by law to direct the disposition of the remains. This person sometimes differs from persons or legal entities authorized to handle other aspects of the decedent's affairs. The mortuary normally provides the signed release form to the PCMEO after obtaining authorization from the legal next of kin. The mortuary will also request certain vital statistics/demographic information from the next of kin that must be recorded on the death certificate. Please note that we are unable to refer you to a specific mortuary. A local list of mortuaries are available on our website.
Copies of the examination report will be available after the cause and manner of death have been determined, and the final death certificate has been filed. In most cases, examination reports are finalized and ready for release in approximately ninety (90) days following the date of the postmortem examination. Prior to release, requesters will need to complete and submit a Non-commercial purpose request form. The request form may be found and completed via the "Request Reports" feature of the Pinal County Medical Exmainer's Office.
In approximately 40% of our cases, we are unable to determine the cause and/or manner of death immediately following our examination. It is frequently necessary for us to perform additional investigation, which may include microscopic, chemical, or toxicological tests, in order to determine the cause and/or manner of death. Depending on the specific analyses required, these determinations may require approximately ninety (90) days of further investigation.
In the event such additional time is required, we will note on the initial death certificate that the cause of death is "Pending." Once we have determined the cause and manner of death, we will submit an amended death certificate to the Department of Public Health, Office of Vital Records, which will be available for issuance to the family upon request.
Please be aware that many insurance companies will not accept a "Pending" death certificate as sufficient for purposes of payment of life insurance or other benefits. Although it is your decision, it may be best to instruct your mortuary to wait until we have filed the amended death certificate before ordering and paying for the death certificate copies you desire.
For your convenience, case status inquiries (to include the cause and manner of death, if available) are able to be made via the Case Search feature of the Pinal County Medical Examiner's Office Website.