Ohio county coroners conduct autopsies on deaths that are unclear or are a result of unusual circumstances, such as murder or suicide. Then, they issue an official report with their findings on the cause of the person’s death. Depending upon the tests needed to determine the cause of death, an autopsy may not be completed for several weeks.
Coroner's reports are public records that can be viewed by anyone, not just family members. Each county in Ohio has different ways to view them or obtain copies, which may require a small fee.
Autopsies in Ohio
A medical examiner is a pathologist who performs a systematic examination of an individual after their death to determine how they died. They make a record of what they find and include the results of various tests, such as a toxicology lab test, which are conducted before the release of the decedent's body to their family for burial.
The next-of-kin does not pay for the autopsy or any of the tests, nor do they have to give permission for the autopsy to take place.
When an Autopsy Is Performed
If there is no foul play suspected, or the deceased person died from natural causes, an autopsy is generally not performed. However, it is undertaken if there is a possibility of legal proceedings from an accident, homicide or suicide.
In these instances, all information of a positive and negative nature is typically investigated to substantiate the cause of death, which is noted on the signed report from the coroner's office.
Getting an Autopsy Report in Ohio State
Most autopsy reports are public records, but how to acquire them differs from county to county. For example, Franklin County allows people to request an autopsy report online and has a form for adding information on the county website.
Montgomery County makes autopsy reports available to view Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Individuals can inquire by calling 937-225-4156 to make an appointment to get an explanation of the autopsy if they need one.
If they need copies of the autopsy record, they pay a small fee of $.25 per page with an additional $.75 for postage and an envelope.
Manner of Death Ruling and Death Certificate
The autopsy report takes about a month to complete, but it can take longer – from six to eight weeks – depending upon the types of tests needed. When the body is released by the coroner to a licensed funeral director, a signed death certificate will accompany it. If the office of the coroner lacks information to complete their report, they will issue a Pending Findings, Fact and Verdict death certificate.
This certificate allows the decedent’s funeral and burial to commence while the coroner waits for additional lab results to come in. When the corner has the results from all the tests, they make a ruling and issue a supplemental death certificate with the revised cause of death, which supersedes the pending death certificate.
Any Ohio county Bureau of Vital Statistics will issue certified copies of a death certificate for a small fee.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.