Coroner FAQ

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the Coroner's Office involved?

Ohio Law requires the County Coroner to investigate the circumstances and determine the cause and manner of death of all deaths that are:

  • sudden, when a person is in apparent good healthnot under the care of a physician
  • suspicious, unusual or unexplained
  • the result of violence
  • unlawful or due to criminal neglect
Will an autopsy be performed?

Autopsies are routinely performed to determine the cause and manner of death on all cases listed above. Autopsies are not routinely performed in cases where there is significant medical history, the death appears to be from natural causes or there is no evidence of foul play.

Can I refuse an autopsy?

In situations where the death appears to be the result of natural causes, there is no evidence of foul play nor is their evidence to support that the death is anything other than due to natural causes, one can decline an autopsy. If you decide not to have a postmortem examination, you must sign a form which states you will accept the death. If you choose to do so, however, the exact cause of death may never be known and may be listed as undetermined on the death certificate. This may be important as far as insurance is concerned or where there may be an undetected disease process which may have an impact on other family members. If there are doubts, please talk it over with other family members before a final joint decision is reached. In cases where the actual cause of death is unclear or due to unusual circumstances, such as homicide, suicide or where concerns of foul play are raised either by others or law enforcement personnel, an autopsy can be ordered, by law, by the coroner.

Will I still be able to have an open casket service if an autopsy is performed?

Yes - autopsies are performed in a professional manner that does not interfere with the viewing of the deceased in a normal manner.

Do I have to pay for an autopsy to be done?

No - there is no charge to the family for autopsies performed under the coroner's jurisdiction.

How long will it take before my loved one is released from the coroner's jurisdiction?

Depending on what time of day the coroner's office is notified and takes the jurisdiction, the medical information available to the coroner at that time and the circumstances surrounding the death, the body may be released the same day or later on the next day. In cases of suspicious deaths or deaths that require further investigation, your loved one's remains may be held for additional time.

Why are tubes and other medical devices left in place on the body?

Part of the autopsy is to investigate the proper application of therapeutic devices.

Is viewing or visiting allowed while the body is under the coroner's jurisdiction?

The coroner's office and the hospital facility are not designed to handle bereaved relatives. Only in rare instances is viewing of the remains allowed on a limited basis. Arrangements for viewing should be made with your funeral director.

Who contacts the funeral home?

Once you have selected a funeral home, please let them know that the body is under the jurisdiction of the coroner. Once a funeral home is selected, you must call the coroner's office as soon as possible to inform them of your choice. The coroner's office will then contact the funeral home when the body is ready for release.

How do I obtain a certified copy of the death certificate?

The coroner's office does not issue copies of the death certificate. Copies can be requested from the funeral home when arrangements are made. As a courtesy to the family, funeral homes offer to obtain the certificates from the Health Department. The health department charges a fee for each copy obtained and any additional copies may be obtained directly from them.

When will the autopsy report be ready and how do I obtain a copy?

Autopsy reports are generally available about one month from the date of death. The results of toxicology and other studies can take longer. One copy of the autopsy report is available at no charge to the immediate next of kin only.

What does "pending" mean on a death certificate?

Occasionally additional information, more extensive testing or further studies are required in order to accurately determine a cause and manner of death. A death certificate with "pending" as the cause of death still allows your family to make immediate funeral arrangements. An amended or final death certificate will be issued upon completion of the investigation and you will be notified when the final death certificate is ready.

What should I do now?

As soon as possible a funeral home must be selected to handle funeral arrangements for the deceased. When you contact the funeral director, advise them that the deceased is under the coroner's jurisdiction. The funeral director will, in turn, contact our office and make arrangements to pick up your loved one.

Who is considered the next of Kin? (ORC 313.10)

(C)(1) The coroner shall provide a copy of the full and complete records of the coroner with respect to a decedent to a person who makes a written request as the next of kin of the decedent. The following persons may make a request pursuant to this division as the next of kin of a decedent:

(a) The surviving spouse of the decedent;

(b) If there is no surviving spouse, or if the surviving spouse has died without having made a request pursuant to this division, any child of the decedent over eighteen years of age, with each child over eighteen years of age having an independent right to make a request pursuant to this division;

(c) If there is no surviving spouse or child over eighteen years of age, or if the surviving spouse and all children over eighteen years of age have died without having made a request pursuant to this division, the parents of the decedent, with each parent having an independent right to make a request pursuant to this division;

(d) If there is no surviving spouse, child over eighteen years of age, or parents of the decedent, or if all have died without having made a request pursuant to this division, the brothers and sisters of the decedent, whether of the whole or the half blood, with each having an independent right to make a request pursuant to this division.

(2) If there is no surviving person who may make a written request as next of kin for a copy of the full and complete records of the coroner pursuant to division (C)(1) of this section, or if all next of kin of the decedent have died without having made a request pursuant to that division, the coroner shall provide a copy of the full and complete records of the coroner with respect to a decedent to the representative of the estate of the decedent who is the subject of the records upon written request made by the representative.