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The County of DuPage
Wheaton, Illinois
 

The Role of the Coroner's Office in Examining a Death in DuPage County 

Jurisdiction (Why did our office get involved?)

Under Illinois law the Coroner is both required and empowered to determine the cause and circumstance of certain deaths. For additional details of the powers and jurisdiction of the Coroner click here (LINK TO CORONER ACT PAGE). In general, deaths of a sudden and unexpected nature are investigated. All deaths related to any type of injury or intoxication must be investigated by our office. This includes deaths that are obviously due to trauma (such as motor vehicle related fatalities) and deaths that are known or suspected to be due to drug or alcohol intoxication. In addition, if an injury or intoxication merely contributes to the death - even in a small way - or is suspected to have contributed to death, the death falls under our jurisdiction. This applies to situations where an individual dies of complications of a prior injury, even if that injury occurred many years ago.

Decision to Further Investigate

If the cause and manner of death cannot be determined by the Deputy Coroner or Coroner at the scene or the death must be investigated my law then the decedent will be brought back to our facility. 

Examination

An examination may be conducted by a physician specializing in forensic pathology, to determine the cause of death, and a death certificate will be completed. This examination normally occurs as soon as is possible. Our forensic pathologist staff will assess whether an autopsy and/or laboratory tests are required as part of the examination. An autopsy is a thorough examination of the body, internally and externally, performed to document injuries, diseases, and even normal conditions of the body. The procedure is performed by a medical doctor with special training in recognizing the appearance of injuries and the effects of diseases. In some situations an examination of only the external surfaces of the body is performed.

In general, the autopsy will not disfigure the body and it will be perfectly suitable for funeral viewing. Our staff has worked with local Funeral Directors for many years in an effort to preserve the body's appearance for viewing, whenever possible, and still fulfill our legal obligations and law enforcement function.

While we try to accommodate all the wishes of family members and the decedent, occasionally the circumstances of the death necessitate that an autopsy be performed despite the oppositions of the family or the decedent. Common reasons include the involvement of a law enforcement agency, mandates specified in Illinois Law, and our legal obligation to investigate deaths under our jurisdiction.

If it is determined that an autopsy, external examination or toxicology analysis is required to determine or confirm the cause and manner of death pursuant to Illinois law tissue(s)/organ(s)/body fluid(s) may be retained for analysis and/or evidentiary purposes. Tissues/organs/body fluids retained at autopsy or as part of any coroner investigative procedure will be disposed of pursuant to Illinois Law and Health and Safety Codes.

Release of the Body

The decedent’s body will be available for release after completion of the examination, and investigation. Upon receipt of a signed authorization (Order for Release of Remains) from the legal next-of-kin, the decedent’s body will be released to a mortuary or other service (e.g. cremation society, transportation service) designated in the authorization. This form can also be used to authorize release of property.

The release may be signed by the legal next-of-kin authorized by law to direct disposition of the remains; this person sometimes differs from persons authorized to handle other aspects of the decedent's affairs. The mortuary normally provides the authorization form, obtains the proper signature, and then submits it to us.

Property

At the scene of the death, the Coroner's investigator may take custody of personal property or evidence belonging to the decedent. The property is logged, secured, and available for release to next-of-kin during normal business hours if further investigation is not required. If authorized by the next-of-kin, property may be released to the mortuary for its further delivery to the family. This authorization can be provided on the Order for Release of Remains described above.

Pending Cases

In some cases we are unable to determine a definitive cause and/or manner of death on the death certificate immediately following our examination. After the exam is completed, it is sometimes necessary for us to perform microscopic, chemical or toxicological tests in order to determine the exact cause of death.

A temporary death certificate will be issued until these tests and exams are completed and then a final death certificate will be issued. The timing of this is individual and depends on the complexity of the investigation.

Obtaining copies of reports and the Death Certificate 

Certified Death Certificates are obtained through the DuPage County Heath Department.
Visit the Health Dept. Death Certificates page or call (630) 682-7400.

To obtain a certified copy of the death certificate for a death occurring in DuPage County, please provide the following information:

Coroner Reports

In cases where the cause and manner of death are not determined at the time of the autopsy (in other words, pending further investigation), copies of the autopsy, investigative and toxicology reports will usually be available after the cause of death is determined and a death certificate is filed.

Reports are released only after all the reports (autopsy, investigative, and toxicology) and the death certificate have been completed. We do not prepare preliminary reports.

If you desire these reports, please write, email, or telephone this office with your request. If emailing your request, please provide your relationship to the decedent, your return address (if requesting hard copies), and your phone number in case we have questions.

Full list of fees.

If, when you receive the reports, you have questions, please call our office at (630) 407-2600.