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Coroner FAQ

QUESTIONS

The following is an attempt to provide basic information about the Lewis County Coroner’s Office to assist you with the necessary procedures following a death.  If your questions are not answered within, please call our office for more assistance.

LEGAL REQUIREMENTS

State and County laws make it the duty of the Lewis County Coroner to inquire into and determine the cause and manner of death that occur under the following circumstances:

Violence:              To include homicides and suicides

Accidental:           To include vehicular, industrial, drowning, fires, falls

Abuse:                  Any death suspected to be related to abuse or neglect

Suspicious:           Any death occurring under circumstances which do not appear to be natural

Unattended:          Any death occurring without a physician present at the time of death, outside of a medical facility

In Custody:           Any death occurring while incarcerated, to include during arrest or while in any County or City facility

Overdoses:            Any death suspected to be related to the overdose use of illegal or prescribed drugs

Abortion:               Any death resulting from criminal or self-induced abortion

Other cases that are reviewed by policy to determine if they are to be

Accepted by the Coroner’s Office are as follows:

Medical Facility Deaths:

Any death occurring within 24 hours of admittance to a medical facility is investigated and a determination is made as to whether or not the death warrants the involvement of the Coroner.

Surgical Death:

Any death occurring during surgery is investigated and a determination is made as to whether or not the death warrants the involvement of the Coroner.

Once a death had been reported to the Coroner’s Office, an investigator will respond to the scene and conduct an investigation.  As part of this process, the decedent may be taken to the Coroner’s facility pending further investigation and/or examination by a forensic pathologist to determine the cause and manner of death.

The final determination will be based on the following information:

1.  Initial Investigation: Information collected at the scene of the death and through follow-up investigation that will clarify medical history and circumstances surrounding the death.

2.  Medical Examination:

          (a) External Examination: A complete physical examination is conducted o the decedent.  The findings and any known medical history are combined to determine the cause and manner of death.

Although an external examination is non-invasive, it is sometimes necessary to obtain samples of body fluids to aid in determining the cause of death and/or contributing factors.

          (b) Autopsy: A complete physical examination, internally as well as externally, is conducted on the decedent which includes a through examination of each organ and if necessary, microscopic examination of the organs.  The findings of this examination together with the investigative findings and any known medical history are combined to determine the cause and manner of death.  Although an autopsy is an extensive examination, it is sometimes necessary to obtain samples of body fluids to aid in determining the cause of death and/or contributing factors.

It should be noted that due to the fact that some of the above examinations are based on laboratory analysis, the final determination may be delayed depending on the type of analysis required. 

CHOOSING A MORTUARY/CREMATION SERVICE

The Lewis County Coroner Mortuary Rotation-is a system which utilizes most of the local mortuaries on a monthly rotation basis.  What this means is that when next-of-kin has no preference or is not immediately available to choose or there isn’t any evidence of a pre-determined designation by the deceased, the “on-call” mortuary will transport the decedent to the Coroner’s facility.  This by no means obligates the next-of-kin to use that mortuary for their funeral arrangements.  Arrangements can them be made through that mortuary or any other mortuary or cremation service.  Again, the next-of-kin is still not obligated to use the “on-call” mortuary for the funeral arrangements.

PERSONAL PROPERTY

The Coroner’s Office is responsible for property that is either on the decedent or under the immediate control of the decedent.  Property on the decedent may or may not be removed at the place of death at the discretion of the Coroner Investigator.  Whenever property is removed from the decedent, each item is described and recorded on a property receipt.  Property is then either released to the next-of-kin at the time of removal or secured at the Coroner’s Office.  Under most circumstances the property is available for release to the legal next-of-kin during normal office hours, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Monday thru Friday, excluding holidays.

DEATH CERTIFICATES

Death Certificates are generated by the mortuaries or cremation service, your funeral director or cremation service director will assist you in obtaining Death Certificates.

Death Certificates may also be obtained from the Lewis County Department of Vital Statistics located in the Lewis County Health Department.

MISCELLANEOUS INFORMATION

To obtain copies of any police reports you should contact the law enforcement agency involved with the case.

Identification and Viewing:  Contrary to popular belief, it is not required or usually necessary for the next-of-kin to come to the Coroner’s facility to visually identify the decedent.  We understand you may wish to see the decedent as soon as possible.  In consideration of this, we will work with the funeral home or cremation service of choice to expedite the release of the decedent for viewing purposes.  You can then work directly with them to arrange for this service.

Veterans:  Persons who have served in the armed forces and were honorably discharged may be entitled to a Veteran’s burial.  For more information contact your local Veterans Affair Office.

Insufficient Funds:  if the decedent’s estate does not have sufficient funds to cover the cost of the disposition of the remains and you are unable to assume the financial responsibility, you may apply for assistance from the Lewis County Social Services.  Your funeral director or cremation service director will be able to assist you in this process.