The need for a post mortem examination is determined by the state or territory in which the death occurred. Typically, a death can be referred to the coroner when its cause is unknown or considered to be suspicious. Death is often expected (due to age or poor health), but a post mortem might be ordered when a young, healthy person passes away for reasons that have not yet been determined (and this determination is the reason for the examination). If a loved one passes away and a post mortem examination is ordered, how does this affect your ability to plan their funeral and cremation?
The coroner is not a medical practitioner, although the post mortem itself is performed by a qualified doctor. The coroner is a magistrate working with the local court, and their office should be able to indicate how long before your loved one's remains will be released. This is unlikely to take long. Your loved one's remains will be released promptly, although this varies depending on the circumstances of their death. The coroner's findings will be reported at a later stage, but your loved one's remains will be released well before this, allowing you to make the necessary funeral arrangements.
Once the coroner's office releases your loved one's remains, they will be transported to a funeral home, if a funeral is to be held prior to cremation. However, your loved one may have opted for direct cremation, meaning that they will be directly transported for immediate cremation. You and next of kin may also make this decision, with a funeral or memorial service then held after the direct cremation, with your loved one's ashes present. The post mortem process will not have any impact on cremation (or burial). But what about when a traditional funeral is to be held first?
Open Casket Funerals
The post mortem examination is necessarily comprehensive and involves both an internal and external examination. Although your loved one will have had their internal organs removed and examined, these will be replaced, with the incisions then closed. A post mortem examination may complicate your ability to have an open casket service, but abdominal incisions will be concealed by clothing. Any visible smaller incisions can be masked with makeup, with makeup being typically applied prior to any open casket service, regardless of whether a post mortem was performed.
The need for a post mortem can be unsettling, but it should not be assumed that anything sinister has occurred, and the results of the post mortem may not be released until well after your loved one has been cremated. A post mortem won't have any significant impact on your ability to arrange your loved one's funeral and cremation.