When can a private autopsy be requested in Virginia? | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

An authorized individual (primarily, a family member) can request a private autopsy at any time after a medical examiner who works for the Virginia Department of Health has completed a postmortem examination.



Medical examiners work in each Virginia city and county. Section 321.-283 of the state code gives an ME discretion to perform a full autopsy on any person who dies

  • From trauma, injury, violence, poisoning or accident;
  • From suicide;
  • From homicide;
  • Suddenly when in apparent good health;
  • When unattended by a physician;
  • In jail, prison or some other correctional institution;
  • In police custody;
  • While receiving services in a state hospital or training center;
  • From burns or smoke inhalation in a fire;
  • Under any suspicious, unusual or unnatural manner; or
  • Suddenly as an apparently healthy infant.

Other statutes require autopsies by ME in some of the listed scenarios. Families can request autopsy reports from MEs, and the conduct of an autopsy by an ME does not prevent a private postmortem examination.