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The Coroner's Office is required to investigate the facts and circumstances of all sudden, violent, traumatic or unexpected deaths that occur within the County. This includes deaths from apparent “natural diseases”, but where the individual had no recent physician of record or documented history of an existing medical condition that could credibly have caused the sudden death. Under these circumstances, it becomes the Coroner’s responsibility to determine how and why an individual died. The Coroner is also responsible for determining the individual’s identity and notifying the next of kin. A Coroner’s investigation will always include examination of the deceased, but may or may not include:
Also, refer to the Pennsylvania Coroner Statues which will also provide a full list of deaths investigated as well as other responsibilities and definitions in reference to the Coroner's Office.
The Chester County Coroner's jurisdiction encompasses the entire County of Chester, Pennsylvania. Deaths must be pronounced in the County to fall under the Coroner's jurisdiction.
When a person dies suddenly or unexpectedly, your first duty is to call 9-1-1 for medical assistance and guidance. All civilians or non-emergency services agencies shall use the following number: 610-436-4700 to request a response/service from the Coroner's Office. This recorded line will be answered in the Chester County Communication Center. Emergency Services agencies shall access the Coroner's Office through normal contact with the dispatcher.
No. The deaths that are not reportable to the Coroner's Office are: deaths due to natural causes where the decedent has been an in-patient of a hospital for at least twenty-four (24) hours, those who die of natural causes while medically attended or as a resident in a nursing facility or in hospice care, and some cases of those who die from natural causes at home and are seen regularly and are under the care of a physician.
The Coroner's Office will send the death certificate to the funeral home. You can request a copy of the death certificate through your funeral home or you can call Vital Records with the Pennsylvania Department of Health at 724-656-3100 or 800-842-5040.
Arrangements for viewing at the morgue cannot be granted. The Coroner's Office will work as quickly as possible to have your loved one taken into the care of the funeral home you have chosen.
An autopsy is an examination of a body of a deceased person by a qualified pathologist or coroner to determine a cause of death. There are a number of reasons why autopsies are performed, however the basic reason is to determine how and why an individual died suddenly and/or unexpectedly. An autopsy can also be performed if, upon investigation, the coroner is unable to determine the cause and manner of death. An autopsy is not necessary in every case brought to the office's attention.
If your family wishes to perform an autopsy and the Coroner's Office does not need to perform one for their investigation, your family can make arrangements with the hospital where the death occurred or with another agency to have a private autopsy performed at your expense.
As next of kin you are entitled to view the autopsy and toxicology reports. To do so, contact our office Mon-Fri, 8:30am- 4:30pm to make an appointment. We will provide a Deputy Coroner to review the reports with you and answer your questions pertaining to the case.
Next of kin who wish to have a printed copy of the autopsy and toxicology reports, as permitted by law, may do so by completing the Next of Kin Request Form, and paying the State-mandated report fees.
Attorneys or insurance companies who wish to obtain a printed copy of the autopsy and toxicology reports, as permitted by law, must contact the Coroner’s Office at 610-344-6165 for instructions. The same state-mandated fees apply.
Where there is a pending investigation being conducted by law enforcement, the District Attorney may request that certain records not be released. Further, in some cases, the District Attorney may petition the Court to seal the records of the Coroner’s investigation.
The legal next of kin is the closest living relative in the following order: spouse (unless divorced), adult child, parent, adult brother or sister, adult grandchild. Common law marriage was abolished in Pennsylvania as of January 2, 2005. This means you must be legally married in order to be considered a spouse, regardless of length of cohabitation or whether there are children who are issue of the relationship.
If a cause of death is determined after the medical review and forensic examination during the autopsy, the cause of death is typically available to the next of kin the same day as the autopsy, unless the cause and manner of death are "pending".
You may initially be informed that the cause and manner of death are "pending". The initial Death Certificate will note "pending" as cause of death; you may make funeral arrangements with this document. Pending simply means that the cause and manner are still under investigation. The most common reason for pending is toxicological testing. Usually, toxicology results can take 4 to 6 weeks for completion. The next of kin will be notified of all completed pending cases. For this reason, if you move or change your phone number, please advise our office immediately.
Most items are released to the funeral home with the deceased. Other items to be released can be retrieved from the Coroner's Office Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Please make contact with the Coroner's Office at 610-344-6165 for more information.
The funeral director will coordinate the release on your behalf. Generally it only takes 1-2 days.
The nest step for the next-of-kin is to select a funeral home for your loved one. The selection of a funeral home is so the Coroner's Office can release your loved one to the care of a funeral home upon completion of our investigation. If you would like the Coroner's Office to contact the funeral home, inform the deputy coroner . If you would like to handle contacting the funeral home, inform the deputy coroner of which funeral home you have selected, as well as informing the funeral home of your choosing that the Coroner's Office is holding your loved one. The funeral home will then contact the Coroner's Office.
The Chester County Coroner's Office cannot endorse a particular funeral home and is prohibited from recommending a funeral director. A listing of funeral homes within Chester County is available from the Coroner's Office and can also be found on this website.