The deaths of individuals are reported to the Coroner's Office because Ohio Law requires that the Coroner investigate deaths of persons dying from the following circumstances: criminal violence, accident, suicide, sudden and unexpected, when unattended by a physician for a reasonable period of time, in detention, or in any suspicious or unusual manner. Another reason that a death may be reported to the Coroner's Office is that the identity of the deceased or next-of-kin is unknown.
Not all cases reported to the Coroner's Office 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. Under a new change in the Ohio Revised Code, any child under the age of 2 years that is referred to the Coroner's Office with no known potentially lethal disease shall be autopsied.
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 including due regard for the deceased's religious persuasion.
An autopsy is a systematic examination by a pathologist of the body of a deceased person for the purpose of determining the cause and manner of death. A record is made of the findings of the autopsy including microscopic and toxicology laboratory tests. These laboratory tests are conducted after the release of the body to the next-of-kin for burial. There is no charge to the next-of-kin for an autopsy nor for any of the tests which may be conducted by the Coroner. If the Coroner waives jurisdiction for an autopsy but the family requests one, the family will be provided information regarding a private autopsy.
Routinely, the Coroner releases the body to a licensed funeral director. The next-of-kin of the deceased person should notify a funeral director who, in turn, will arrange transportation for the deceased to the funeral home and obtain the necessary documents for burial or cremation.
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. A listing of funeral directors is available in the telephone book as well as other sources.
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 investigating law enforcement agency for use as evidence.
By Ohio Law (ORC 313.14) the Office of the Coroner will take possession of monies and other personal effects of the deceased. These items are inventoried and released to the next-of-kin. Money over $100.00 may only be released with a "Release from Probate Order" from the court or a "Letter of Appointment" naming an executor of the estate of the deceased.
The autopsy report, also called the protocol, usually takes about six weeks to be completed after the autopsy. If numerous drugs are present in the toxicology testing, this time period can lengthen to eight weeks.
This procedure is handled differently by the various Counties. However, in most cases, a signed death certificate accompanies the body when it is released by the Coroner. When there is insufficient information available to complete the death certificate, a "Pending Findings, Facts and Verdict" death certificate is issued that accompanies the body. This death certificate enables the funeral services and burial to take place while additional toxicology, microscopic slide preparation and examination, and investigation continue. At the culmination of these tests and investigation, the ruling is made based on all available information. A supplemental death certificate is then issued with the cause and manner of death ruling which supersedes the "Pending" death certificate.
This procedure differs from County to County. To obtain this information, contact your respective County Coroner, whose phone number can be found in your local phone book. The Warren County Coroner's Office can be reached at 513-695-1137.
Certified copies of the death certificates can only be obtained from the Bureau of Vital Statistics of each respective County. Warren County's Vital Statistics department can be reached at 513-695-1220.