The Coroner in Ohio – An Overview
Coroners in Ohio are elected county officials who serve four-year terms. To be eligible to serve as coroner, an individual must:
- Have been a physician licensed to practice in Ohio for a period of at least two years immediately preceding election (or appointment to fill a vacancy)
- Be in good professional standing
- Meet certain educational requirements
Each Ohio coroner is responsible for the investigation of deaths in his or her county that are other than natural in manner, that occur unexpectedly in an individual in apparent good health, or that occur in an unusual or suspicious manner. The coroner is required to maintain a record of all deaths coming under his/her jurisdiction and to certify the cause and manner (PDF) of each.
Other responsibilities of Ohio Coroners include:
- Establishing the identity of decedents
- Insuring next-of-kin are notified of a death in a timely fashion
- Safeguarding personal possessions on or pertaining to decedents’ bodies
In addition to their legal obligations, coroners try also to address any reasonable questions or concerns raised by decedents’ families, by medical personnel and other caregivers, by law enforcement and other governmental agencies, and by the public.
Major Elements of a Death Investigation
While the procedures employed may vary depending upon the circumstances of death, an investigation typically includes:
- Evaluation of the decedent’s history – was he or she at an increased risk of death due to illness, injury, or high-risk behavior? Is there other information about this individual that may be relevant?
- Evaluation of the circumstances of death - when, where, and how did this individual die? What happened before death? What happened afterward?
- Scene investigation - information collected at a scene guides further investigation, facilitates interpretation of autopsy findings, and may be critical in establishing cause, manner, and time of death. In addition, scene attendance provides an opportunity for communication among the agencies involved in the investigation.
- Examination of the decedent – in order to identify natural diseases and injuries, as well as to obtain specimens for analysis and to collect evidence from the body