When is a Death Reportable to the Medical Examiner?
- Resulting from any form of physical trauma, accident, by fire, electrocution, by self or otherwise without regard to the time period between the traumatic event and death.
- Being the result of an abortion, either self-induced or otherwise (not miscarriage).
- As the consequence of overdose, poisoning, intoxication, drowning, or suffocation/asphyxia or lightning.
- That is “suspicious”, “unusual”, “unexpected”, the result of equipment failure or malfunction; deaths while working “on-the-job” or in an agricultural setting.
- While in custody, detention, or transportation by an agent of the Federal, State, County, and/or City, Village, or Township government.
- Of a mother within one year of delivering a baby.
- Of a child/infant or one “found dead”.
- From abuse, neglect, or starvation or allegations of such treatment.
- Of persons believed to be in good health without prior medical conditions that might explain death at the time it occurred and includes those who have been receiving care for such a short time that a reasonable definitive natural cause of death cannot be determined.
- Which is unexpected and/or associated with or result of diagnostic or anesthetic procedures.
- Without medical attendance when the physician of record will not or cannot determine with ‘reasonable’ accuracy a natural cause of death.
- Where the body/remains are “found dead”.
- Hospice/planned home death patients must be reported according to established Medical Examiner criteria. In most cases, these will not be investigated by the Medical Examiner’s office unless there is suspicion of foul play, equipment malfunction, or negligence.
- Of individuals within Huron County territorial jurisdiction on the Great Lakes/Saginaw Bay and associated Huron County tributaries draining into the lakes/bay or on Huron County inland lakes, ponds, or other bodies of water.
- Resulting from a high mortality or highly communicable disease or toxic substance, which threatens the public health, safety and/or welfare.
When is Medical Examiner Notification NOT Necessary?
The following DO NOT need to be reported. Questions should be referred to the Medical Examiner. Deaths which need not be reported are …
- Natural deaths, which can be determined with ‘reasonable’ accuracy by the physician of record who will certify the death and complete the death certificate.
- Hospital or nursing facility patients, which do not fit the above criteria for reporting, even if hospitalized or admitted to a nursing care facility is/has been less than 24 hours, if the physician of record can determine a NATURAL cause of death and the death otherwise does not fit into the reportable criteria above.
- Or will be the result of life support termination unless the death is associated with the reportable criteria above.
- Emergency Department deaths which can be determined as NATURAL and the physician of record is available to certify the death (The ED physician is allowed to complete the death certificate only under unusual circumstances, which he/she must discuss with the Medical Examiner prior to doing so. Significant history must be obtained on these individuals to help rule out an unnatural death mechanism or circumstance).
When Will an Autopsy Be Ordered?
This is decided, commonly, on a case-by-case basis and often in consultation with the Prosecuting Attorney, Law Enforcement, and/or others by the Medical Examiner. Most times it will be decided upon with the information available at the time and circumstances surrounding the death. An autopsy is not likely to be ordered by the Medical Examiner at Huron County taxpayer expense when/because…
- Nothing is likely to be gained in the autopsy that will contribute more to determining the manner and/or cause of death.
- Emergency, Hospital and Nursing facility deaths are determined to be from NATURAL causes.
- Toxicological deaths by overdose, combination of, or over-ingestion of legal or illegal pharmaceuticals, and/or herbal agents that can be discovered through body fluid toxicology assessment.
- Many forms of NATURAL deaths are discernible by history and/witness interviews alone.
- The death actually occurred outside Huron County and the body transported into Huron County.
- The family, hospital or attending physician wants it done but there are no significant Medical Examiner issues (crime/public health) related to cause and manner of death. (Note: Families/Hospitals are free to commission a private autopsy at their own expense once Medical Examiner jurisdiction is relinquished).
- A physician wants to determine if hospital or office treatment was appropriate.
Rationale and philosophical basis for Medical Examiner/Huron County Medical Examiner ordered autopsies:
Medical Examiner ordered autopsies are funded by taxpayer dollars; the benefit, therefore, must be to the taxpayer, i.e., ruling out foul play (criminal; assisting in prosecuting the guilty or exonerating the innocent) or the public’s health, welfare and safety (communicable disease control and public policy determination).