When is an autopsy performed?
Not all Coroner's cases are autopsied. Certain cases are not autopsied where no "foul play" is suspected and evidence of a natural death is present. In other cases where there is the possibility of legal proceedings which may arise as a result of a homicide, accident, suicide, etc., an autopsy will be performed. In these cases both positive and negative information is found which substantiates the ruling and cause of death as signed by the Coroner. If an autopsy was ordered during the investigation process the final report may take 12-16 weeks to complete. Toxicology studies, if ordered, may take 8-10 weeks to complete.
Does the coroner need permission from the next of kin for an autopsy?
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.
What is an autopsy and is there a charge for it?
An autopsy is a systematic examination by a qualified physician of the body of a deceased person for the purpose of determining the cause of death and recovering, from the body, evidence of the cause of death. A record is made of the findings of the autopsy including microscopic and toxicologic laboratory tests. These laboratory tests are conducted after the release of the body to the next of kin for burial. There is no charge by the Coroner's Office to the next of kin for an autopsy when this is ordered by the Coroner as part of an investigation.
How will the body be released?
Routinely, the Coroner releases the body to a licensed funeral director. The next of kin of the deceased person should notify the Coroner's Office of the name of the funeral home and notify the funeral director who, in turn, will arrange the transportation for the deceased to the funeral home and obtain the necessary documents for burial or cremation.
How can a funeral director be selected?
Most often, the next of kin discuss 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. A listing of funeral directors is available in the telephone book as well as other sources.
Where may the clothing of the deceased be located?
Usually the clothing of the deceased is released to the funeral director for disposal or use as the family requests. In cases of homicide, various suicides, or vehicular death, the clothing may be held by the Coroner or law enforcement for use as evidence.
How long does it take for a death ruling to be made?
A death certificate is completed a few days after death occurs. If possible, the initial death certificate is completed with the cause of death and manner of death. Occasionally a pending death certificate is issued if there is insufficient information at the time of autopsy to make a proper judgment or if toxicology testing is incomplete. When toxicology results, microscopic slide examination and further investigative information are available, a supplementary death certificate will be issued with a cause of death and ruling. Autopsy and toxicology results may take 12-16 weeks before they are available to the Coroner. The next of kin of the deceased is notified when the supplemental certificate is sent to the appropriate Board of Health.
Can I shadow the Coroner or visit your facilities for a school project or internship?
Although the Fairfield County Coroner's Office strongly supports the field of forensic studies, our department size does not lend itself to job shadowing or internships. Students who are interested in learning more about the field of forensic studies are encouraged to talk to coroners who serve in large jurisdictions or follow up with your professor or teacher for other internship locations.
Dr. Thomas R. Vajen, M.D., Coroner
FAIRFIELD COUNTY, OHIO
Fairfield County Coroner, Lancaster, Ohio.
Dr. Thomas R. Vajen, M.D.
Fairfield Co. Coroner
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