Under law, OCME has jurisdiction to investigate deaths that occur within New York City 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. An investigation may include an external examination of the decedent, or an autopsy, which is a complete external and internal examination of the decedent's body.
Examinations take place daily at OCME's three Forensic Pathology Centers in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Examinations are performed by medical examiners, with assistance from mortuary technicians, photographers, x-ray technicians, and other professionals. Approximately 30 medical examiners are on staff at OCME.
Upon completion of the examination, the medical examiner issues a death certificate that states the cause and manner of death. Often, additional information is needed from medical records, police reports, subsequent laboratory tests, and other sources before a final determination can be made. In such cases, the death certificate will state the cause and manner of death as "pending further studies" until the medical examiner can issue an amended death certificate later when the final determination on cause and manner of death is made.
While medical examiners routinely assess information from other sources and records as part of a death investigation, the findings of OCME are completely independent.
Death certificates are filed with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Visit our Frequently Asked Questions for more information about how family members can obtain a death certificate and other information related to the investigation.