The Coroner is also responsible for investigating deaths of a suspicious or violent nature. When inquests are warranted, the Coroner is empowered to perform autopsies, subpoena witnesses, administer oaths and issue certificates of death where death occurs without medical attention or attendance. The Coroner can utilize any and all medicolegal investigative techniques, including an autopsy, to establish both the medical cause of death, and mode or manner of death (natural, accident, homicide, suicide, or undetermined).
The purpose of the investigation would be to determine the cause of any such death and to determine whether or not there is sufficient reason for the Coroner to believe that any such death may have resulted from criminal acts or criminal neglect of persons other than the deceased. As part of the investigation, the Coroner will also determine the identity of the deceased and notify the next of kin.
Following are occurrences that would be cause for investigation:
- Sudden deaths not caused by readily recognizable disease or where the cause of death cannot be properly certified by a physician on the basis of prior or recent medical attendance
- Deaths occurring under suspicious circumstances, including alcohol, drugs or other toxic substances which may have had a direct bearing on the outcome
- Deaths occurring as a result of violence or trauma, whether apparently homicidal, suicidal or accidental (including mechanical, thermal, chemical, electrical or radiation injury, drowning, or industrial accidents)
- Deaths in which trauma, chemical injury, drug overdose or reaction to drugs or medical treatment was a primary or secondary, direct or indirect, contributory, aggravating or precipitating cause of death
- Operative and perioperative deaths in which the death is not readily explainable on the basis of prior diseases
- Deaths wherein the body is unidentified or unclaimed
- Deaths known or suspected to be caused due to contagious disease and which constitute a public hazard
- Deaths occurring in prison, a penal institution, or while in the custody of the police
- Deaths of persons whose bodies are to be cremated, buried at sea or otherwise disposed of
- Sudden infant death syndrome and stillbirths
When a person dies suddenly or unexpectedly, your first responsibility is to Call 9-1-1 for medical assistance and guidance. If possible, have the following information available:
- Name and address of the decedent,
- Age and date of birth,
- Place and circumstances of occurrence,
- Name and location of the treating physician, and
- Any other information that may be helpful.