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Ohio Law requires that the Coroner investigate deaths of persons dying from criminal violence, by accident, suicide, suddenly, in detention, or any suspicious or unusual manner. When the identity of the deceased or next-of-kin is unknown, or a physician has not seen the deceased for a reasonable period of time, the body may be brought to the Coroner's Office. The Coroner may perform a forensic autopsy, investigate the circumstances of the death and issue a report.
A forensic autopsy is a primary tool used to find answers to the cause of a person's death. A series of tests, involving external and internal examination of the body, using surgical techniques and a set of medical standards, offers specialists an opportunity to determine the presence of an injury and/or to identify a disease that may have contributed to or caused a death. A forensic pathologist, a medical doctor specially trained to recognize patterns of injury, collect evidence and investigate the circumstances surrounding a death, performs an autopsy. Small samples of each organ are taken for microscopic examination. Other tests that may be performed include studying genes and checking for drugs, chemicals, or toxic substances.
There may be no autopsy in cases where evidence of natural death is present and no "foul play" is suspected. An autopsy will be performed in cases that result from a homicide, accident, suicide, in cases where the cause of death is not immediately evident or when the deceased is a young person who dies suddenly.
Discovering inherited or familial diseases may help families through early diagnosis and treatment and in family planning.?Discovering an infectious disease, for example, tuberculosis, may lead to early diagnosis and treatment of other family members and close contacts.?Uncovering evidence of a work-related hazard may lead to compensation for the family.?Providing crucial evidence for the settling of insurance claims or death benefits may result in benefits for the family.?Finding a specific cause of death may simply ease the stress of the unknown.Finding that diagnosis and treatment was appropriate may be comforting to the family.
There is no charge to the next-of-kin for an autopsy or for any of the tests, which may be conducted by the coroner.
Ohio Law (ORC 2108.52) provides that the Coroner does not need permission for an autopsy. The Office of the Coroner will attempt to comply with the wishes of the next-of-kin if this does not conflict with the duties of the Coroner as charged by Ohio Law.
Various counties in Ohio handle this procedure differently. In most cases, however, a signed death certificate will be issued within two weeks of the date of death. When there is insufficient information available to complete the death certificate in a timely fashion, or additional chemical tests, microscopic slide preparation and examination, and further investigations are needed – a "Pending further studies and Coroner's Verdict" death certificate can be issued. At the culmination of these tests and investigation, the ruling is made based on all available information. A supplemental death certificate, which supersedes, the "Pending" death certificate, is then issued with the cause of death and ruling.
The family may select a funeral director right away. Most often, the next-of-kin discusses the selection of a funeral director with other family members, clergy, or friends. The Office of the Coroner is prohibited from recommending a funeral director. The Lucas County Coroner's Office and the funeral directors work closely together to accommodate families' funeral arrangements.
Autopsies have been performed on individuals of all religious backgrounds. Religious decisions are always personal. You may want to discuss your decision with relatives and your spiritual advisors. Ohio law permits religious objections to Coroner's autopsies.
Usually, the property of the deceased is released to the funeral director for use as the family requests. In cases of homicide, some illnesses, or vehicular death, the Coroner or other investigating law enforcement agencies may hold the property for use as evidence.
The autopsy report, also called the protocol, usually takes about four weeks to be completed after the autopsy. If microscopic and chemical tests are performed, this time period can lengthen to six to eight weeks.
The death certificate is a public record and can be obtained from the Bureau of Vital Statistics. Coroner's records are not public records, but the Coroner's findings are released to the legal next-of-kin in some cases. Simply call the Lucas County Coroner's Office for more information.
?Increasing knowledge about the cause and course of an illness and the effects of different types of treatment.?Disclosing evidence of environmental hazards.?Explaining the causes of injuries in accidents involving automobiles, falls, or other situations that could prevent further harm to the public.?Helping to establish the cause and manner of death.?Discovering trends when patterns of death emerge.
The performance of an autopsy should in no way affect a funeral or viewing of the body. The incisions from the autopsy can be concealed for the viewing service and funeral.