Approximately 10,000 deaths are reported to the police each year. The police receive a notification about the death and visit the location in question.

Even though they don’t conduct the investigation of the cause of death in all cases reported to them. 

The police must conduct a forensic examination to determine cause of death if

  • it has not already been established that the death was caused by an illness, or the deceased was not receiving medical care during his or her final illness
  • the death was caused by a crime, accident, suicide, poisoning, occupational disease or medical treatment or there is reason to suspect that one of these was the cause of death
  • the death otherwise occurred unexpected.

Examination of the cause of death of unknown deceased persons usually requires a forensic autopsy. In addition, the cause of death is examined, if the death have occurred in special circumstances, such as

  • military service based on the law on military service
  • detainment
  • apprehension due to intoxication
  • under arrest
  • imprisonment
  • involuntary treatment
  • other similar circumstances.

In other situations, the cause of death is examined in health care by means of forensic determination of the cause of death.

The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) controls and monitors examination of the cause of death in Finland.

Forensic autopsy

The police is usually assisted by a forensic pathologist in the investigation. In most cases, the police orders a forensic autopsy for the deceased. The consent of the deceased's relatives is not required for performing an autopsy.

The National Institute for Health and Welfare is responsible for autopsy activities. A post-mortem examination is usually performed within a week. Autopsies are performed in five cities in Finland: Helsinki, Turku, Tampere, Kuopio and Oulu. The transport of the deceased to the autopsy site and back to the original town/city is paid by the state.

After the autopsy, the police usually give relatives preliminary information about the findings of the autopsy. The final results and statements may take several months to complete, depending on the scope of the examination.

The deceased can usually be buried without waiting for the police investigation to complete. The deceased can usually be given for burial immediately after the autopsy. The medical examiner issues a burial permit for this.

Personal effects of the deceased

The police take care of the personal effects of the deceased, taking them into possession and delivering them to relatives.

Other investigation activities

During the investigation, the police determine, among other things, the deceased person’s activities when living, events at the moment of death and circumstances. To clarify these, investigation may be required at the site where the deceased person was found and/or died, and interrogate people who may have information affecting the investigation.

Information about the death and cause of death

When the investigation is completed, the police inform relatives about the results. Information about the cause of death is confidential, and the police can give it only based on specific grounds.

Information can be given to: 

  • the deceased person’s close family member or another close person
  • an insurance or pension company if the information is justifiably required for the processing of a benefit application
  • a court or community that has the legal right to obtain information
  • the person who has requested or given consent to the examination of the cause of death.

Recovering from grief

Close persons have an important role in recovering from grief. Sometimes, however, professional help is required. Psycho-social support and emergency aid are part of on-call basic health services.  The police’s duty is to direct a person in need of emergency aid to get help. Help can be sought around the clock at local on-call health services.