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How Long Can a Body Stay in a Morgue?

How Long Can a Body Stay in a Morgue?
Mature male protective mask sitting in an armchair in the waiting area.
Morgues are places where the recently deceased may be taken. This post will tell you how long a body can stay in a morgue depending on the circumstances.

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When a person passes away their body could be taken a number of places depending on the circumstances. Typically, if a person passes away in a hospital, which is the case about 35% of the time, the body will likely be brought to the morgue temporarily until the funeral home takes possession. This is usually within a day of the death. 

But a body is also brought to the morgue for one of two other reasons: the person is unidentified or an autopsy needs to be performed. In those circumstances the body could stay in the morgue for much longer.

What’s the Longest a Body is Held at a Morgue If the Person is Unidentified?

How long a body stays at the morgue will depend on how long it takes for someone to come identify the body. This can understandably take time if there’s no indication of who the person was that died. And if they passed away far from home it can be even more difficult.

The local coroner will have to look into the matter and try to locate someone who can identify the body. Ideally, it would be a family member or spouse that can claim the body. 

But sometimes the coroner is unsuccessful. The state and local regulations will determine how long an unidentified body can be kept at the morgue. In most places it’s at least 30 days. The standard procedure is that the hospital will arrange the disposition after this time. This happens in only 1% of deaths. 

What’s the Longest a Body is Held at a Morgue If an Autopsy Has to be Performed?

In the U.S., it’s estimated that 5% of hospital deaths involve an autopsy, and roughly 10% of all deaths require an autopsy. Generally, the medical examiner won’t take long to perform an autopsy. In most cases,  They may even be able to do an external physical exam to determine the cause of death. 

Again local and state laws will come into play in determining how long a body can stay at the morgue for an autopsy. Usually the autopsy is performed within 2-3 days, then it is released to the family or designated funeral home. 


Green Cremation Texas can work directly with the morgue to arrange transport so that the family doesn’t have to worry about this part of the process at all. If you have any questions about what happens after a death, give our team a call. We can explain what happens in different scenarios and help you arrange transport if needed.

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