Autopsies in the U.S.A.

Death investigations in the U.S. are often carried out in settings that bear little resemblance to the glitzy, high-tech morgues shown on television. When a death occurs under suspicious circumstances, the investigation into its cause is overseen by a coroner, often an elected official with no medical background, or a medical examiner, usually a doctor who specializes in forensic pathology. ProPublica, in partnership with PBS "Frontline" and NPR, surveyed almost 70 of the largest coroner and medical examiner systems in the U.S. More about the data »

A National Patchwork

Coroner and medical examiner systems vary widely from state to state and even county to county. Hover over each state to see what forensics systems are in place there.


Build something with this data using the ProPublica Forensics API.

ProPublica's Jeff Larson contributed to development. ProPublica interns Liz Day and Sydney Lupkin contributed research for this project as did Sheelagh McNeill, Kitty Bennett, Frontline's Jackie Bennion and NPR's Barbara Van Woerkom.


The autopsy numbers originally reported for Utah were overstated because of a data collection error. The figures were for the total number of cases accepted, rather than just the number of autopsies performed. We have corrected those numbers and adjusted our regression formula based on the change. As a result, the percentage by which states rate of autopsies varied from expected levels shifted slightly in many cases. Three years of data for Utah 2004, 2005, 2006 -- moved from more than expected to as expected. In addition, two values Oklahoma for in 2007 and Massachusetts in 2004 -- moved from as expected to fewer than expected. Two values -- Alaska in 2006 and the District of Columbia 2004 -- moved from as expected to more than expected. This adjustment affects calculations for state autopsy systems only.

Alabama was originally labeled as having a state medical examiner and some county medical examiners. In fact, its system also includes some county coroners.

How Does Your System's Autopsy Rate Compare?

Fewer than expected

System Autopsy Rate vs. Expected  
Arkansas Medical Examiner
Ark. (statewide)
in 2007
Macomb County (Mich.) Medical Examiner
Macomb County, Mich.
in 2007
Bergen County (N.J.) Medical Examiner
Bergen County, N.J.
in 2007
Oregon Medical Examiner
Ore. (statewide)
in 2007
Maine Medical Examiner
Maine (statewide)
in 2007

More than expected

System Autopsy Rate vs. Expected  
Harris County (Texas) Institute of Forensic Sciences
Harris County, Texas
in 2007
Vermont Medical Examiner
Vt. (statewide)
in 2007
Fulton County (Ga.) Medical Examiner
Fulton County, Ga.
in 2007
Pima County (Ariz.) County Medical Examiner
Pima County, Ariz.
in 2007
Orange County Coroner System
Orange County, Calif.
in 2007
All Systems »

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Despite a lengthening trail of errors that have spanned more than a decade, Dr. Thomas Gill has continued to do thousands of autopsies and to serve as an expert witness in criminal cases.

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Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer are Mississippi men who spent a combined 30 years in prison for crimes they didn't commit. They were separately charged with sexually assaulting and murdering two 3-year-old girls — in two separate crimes — two years apart.