In some cases, the cause of death is evident at the time of autopsy. The death certificate is completed immediately, and the examination report will typically be mailed out shortly thereafter. In other cases, the cause of death may require additional studies and therefore, additional time.
Many studies require the processing and analysis of specimens by consulting laboratories, whose turn-around times are not controlled by the KCMEO. Toxicology analysis is one of the most frequent reasons for the delay in completing an investigation and death certificate. Forensic toxicology (in KCMEO cases) is very different from the drug testing performed in hospitals. Toxicology analysis may take 4-6 weeks if no drugs are present. However, 8-12 weeks are typically required to perform the necessary confirmations and quantitative analysis of the drugs detected. Longer toxicology turn-around times are required in cases where numerous drugs are involved, where unusual drugs are involved or if the person is decomposed.
Finally, the death investigation may be prolonged if the initial suspicions are not confirmed. The KCMEO may also confer with the law enforcement agency investigating the death to consider other possibilities (asking the police to return to the scene of death or to interview additional witnesses). As one might suspect, all death investigations are different, and determining the cause and manner of death may require a great number of steps, each requiring time to complete. The time needed to complete some of these steps may not be under the control of the KCMEO.
We greatly appreciate the patience of families and friends in these matters as we try to provide accurate and complete answers.