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Autopsy Data

ProPublica, in partnership with NPR News Investigations and PBS Frontline, surveyed almost 70 of the largest coroner and medical examiner systems in the U.S. Using the data collected, for years 2004-2007, they also created an autopsy rate to determine performance levels by each of the offices. Learn more about the data collection.

  • State Medical Examiner Systems
  • County Medical & Coroner Systems


The autopsy rate is calculated based on autopsies per 100,000 deaths. Then, using the CDC mortality data, ProPublica looked at the relationship between the autopsy rate and the rates of unintentional deaths and homicides. They found that the higher the homicide and unintentional-death rate in an area, the higher the autopsy rate tends to be. They used this relationship to compute an expected autopsy rate and then compared the expected autopsy rate and the actual autopsy rate to see whether counties and states performed fewer, more than or the expected number of autopsies, given their rates of unintentional deaths and homicides.