Autopsy Service

General Information

  • Primary Contact: 984-974-1476; 919-966-4491
  • Director: Leigh B. Thorne MD, 919-966-8003
  • Assistant Administrative Director: Sheila Winn, MBA, HTL(ASCP), 984-974-9172
  • Physician On-Call: 216-1358 (Pager)
  • Office:
    • Location: Rm 1109 Brinkhous-Bullitt Building
    • Hours: 8:30 am - 4:30 pm, Monday - Friday
  • Morgue:
    • Location: Rm 1112 Brinkhous-Bullitt Building
    • Hours: 8:30 am - 4:30 pm, Monday - Friday

Additional Information

In compliance with JCAHO recommendations, for every inpatient death, the attending physician (or their designee) must request permision for autopsy from the appropriate next-of-kin, and complete the UNC HOSPITALS AUTOPSY REQUEST VERIFICATION OF AUTOPSY REQUEST section in its entirety (MIM# 406s, July 1, 2000) . There is no charge for an Autopsy performed on anyone who dies while a patient at UNC Hospitals or after discharge from UNC Hospitals. Autopsy Technicians, Residents and Attendings are on-call nights, weekends and holidays. Autopsies are not started before 8:30 am or after 4:30 pm except under special circumstances.


The Medical staff is responsible for obtaining legal authorization for an Autopsy by filing the UNC Hospitals Autopsy Request. An Autopsy cannot begin until all portions of this form are completed. The form is in three parts.

  1. Verification of Autopsy Request (Page 1) - signed by next of kin, and requesting physician, to permit or deny permission for Autopsy. If request for Autopsy is declined, STOP HERE.
  2. Authorization for Autopsy (Pages 2 and 3) - THIS SECTION MUST BE READ BY, OR READ TO, THE AUTHORIZING PERSON. Authorization may only be given by the personal representative of the patient's estate, or the patient's next-of-kin, when persons of a prior class are unavailable by reasonable effort, in strict order of priority as follows:
    • the spouse; any adult son, adult daughter, adult step son, or adult step daughter;
    • any parent, including step parents or the mother of an illegitimate descendent;
    • any adult brother, adult sister, or adult half brother or half sister;
    • a guardian of the person of the patient at the time of the patient's death
    • any relative or person who accepts responsibility for final disposition of the body by other customary and lawful procedures
    • or any other person under obligation to dispose of the body.
    • One witness is required for autopsy authorization. The witness cannot be related to the patient, nor can the witness be the physician obtaining the authorization.
    • Authorization by telephone from next-of-kin is permissible, but should be obtained only if authorization cannot be obtained otherwise. One person must witness the telephone conversation between the physician and the proper authorizing relative. The physician and witness must document on the form that authority for autopsy was obtained by telephone. Exceptions to autopsy must be cleary indicated; if there are no limitations, "NONE" must be indicated.
  3. Information for Pathologist (Page 3) - Provide pertinent information about the decedent's diagnosis, therapy and any questions which need to be resolved. Indicate if the patient has any infectious illness. List names of attending and referring physicians, as well as all other physicians who wish to be called when dissection is complete or who wish to receive reports.


Each UNC Hospitals' autopsy case is presented and discussed at the Autopsy Multidisciplinary Conference (three to ten days after the patient's death). These Conferences are open to all the staff and are held each Thursday, 10:00 am -11:00 am, in the morgue conference room of the Brinkhous-Bullitt Building.

Medical Examiner Jurisdiction

(Page 4 MIM#406) The county medical examiner is an officer of the State of North Carolina. The medical examiner's primary purpose is to detect, analyze, and document the medical aspects of certain types of deaths. The following types of deaths in North Carolina must be reported to a Medical Examiner: homicide; suicide; accident; trauma; disaster; violence; unknown, unnatural or suspicious circumstances; in police custody, jail or prison; poisoning or suspicion of poisoning; public health hazard (such as acute contagious disease or epidemic); deaths during surgical or anesthetic procedure; sudden unexpected deaths that are not reasonably related to known previous disease; deaths without medical attendance; and migrant agricultural workers and their dependents. The Medical Examiner has discretion as to whether a given death is within their jurisdiction. However, every death that is due to or might reasonably have been due to a violent or traumatic injury or accident, is to be investigated by the Medical Examiner. This includes all murders, suicides, accidents, poisonings, etc. Note that every death due to a violent cause is to be investigated, regardless of the duration of survival (including hospitalization) of the decedent after injury. If there is any question as to whether a case should be investigated by the Medical Examiner, call the Orange County Medical Examiner at 919-636-1308. (In the event, the Orange County Medical Examiner is not available, please call the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) at 1-800-672-7024.)

Autopsy Reports

Autopsy reports will be issued within the following time frames. Reports will be available on the Clinical Workstation after completion.

  • Provisional Autopsy Report: 2 Work Days
  • Final Autopsy: Report 30-60 Days

Note: Reference ranges provided on this web site are for guidance only, and may not reflect the most recent changes. Refer to laboratory reports for current reference data.

UNC Hospitals
McLendon Clinical Laboratories
101 Manning Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27514