2 options for an autopsy (post mortem):

1. Coroner cases: the Coroner can order an autopsy by a designated pathologist. Covered by the Coroner's Act and the judicial powers of the Coroner.
The Coroner may not request a full autopsy in all cases - options include no autopsy or a limited autopsy.

2. Hospital autopsies: in cases that are not accepted by the Coroner.
The Pathologist requires a doctor to first issue a death certificate.
- if the cause of death is unknown, it should be a Coroner case

A Medical Referee can require an autopsy as a condition of issuing a permission to cremate. This exceptional situation could arise where the Coroner has declined jurisdiction but there is sufficient uncertainty about the causes of death.
- most crematorium authorities do not have a specific "appointed" pathologist.
In these cases, the family/whanau and executor may be notified by the Medical Referee that they have 2 choices:
  • they can can elect to bury the body instead of having a cremation, or
  • an autopsy could be arranged at a hospital-based pathology service, possibly at some cost to the family (approximately $2000) and some delay in issuing a permission to cremate.

Cremation Regulations section 7(5)
If in any case—
  • (a) to which paragraph (c) of subclause (4) does not apply; or
  • (b) to which the said paragraph (c) applies and in which the coroner has notified the Medical Referee that he does not intend to give a certificate in the said form C—

the Medical Referee is not satisfied that the cause of death has been definitely ascertained, the Medical Referee shall not permit the cremation unless a post-mortem examination has been made by a medical practitioner expert in pathology appointed by a crematorium authority, or, in case of emergency or in case of cremations taking place elsewhere than in an approved crematorium, by a medical practitioner expert in pathology appointed by the Medical Referee, and a certificate as to the cause of death has been given by such medical practitioner in form E of Schedule 1.