What To Expect

Sudden and unexpected deaths can leave a family bereaved, distraught and looking for answers. One way of helping a family understand what happened to their loved one is by performing an autopsy.

Vermont law states that deaths due to injury, as well as sudden, unexpected natural deaths, can be authorized by the chief medical examiner or the state’s attorney for investigation by conducting a medicolegal autopsy. Medicolegal autopsies are authorized under law by the State, and all costs associated with the performance of the autopsy are assumed by the State. If there are specific religious concerns about the autopsy, the family may contact the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner or the State’s Attorney of their jurisdiction.

The autopsy procedure can take a few hours to perform and varies depending on the requirements of the case. The performance of an autopsy should not affect a funeral or viewing of the decedent. Vermont funeral directors have been working together with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for years, and will be able to assist families in preparations and transport of their loved one.

Burial Assistance

Too often, people do not think about end-of-life arrangements until after a person has died. Then decisions must be made quickly during an emotional and stressful time. Arranging funeral services can be emotionally trying and difficult. You may feel pressure to pay more than you want to, or can afford.

In instances where you do not have the resources to make burial arrangements for your loved one, contact your local funeral home to request burial assistance through an application process with the Department for Children and Families (DCF). They will determine if financial assistance is available, based on the decedent’s assets.

We encourage you to use the resources on the Secretary of State's website when making arrangements for a loved one, or planning your wishes and how you would like important matters to be handled, including advice from a health care provider, religious or spiritual advisor, attorney, family and friends, and hospice.

This information is not designed to offer medical or legal advice – for that, please consult with your health care provider and attorney.

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For more information about ensuring your wishes for end of life care and other critical health care decisions, visit Vermont Advance Directives.