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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: 610-383-7000 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.
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. An autopsy may 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.
Next of kin who wish to have a printed unofficial copy of the autopsy and toxicology reports, as permitted by law, may do so by completing the Next of Kin Report Request Form. State-mandated report fees for official copies of the autopsy and toxicology reports are as follows:
Attorneys or insurance companies who wish to obtain a printed copy of the autopsy and toxicology reports, as permitted by law, must fill out the Other Agencies Report Request Form and then contact the Coroner’s Office at 610-344-6165 (Mon-Fri 8:30am-4:30pm) for instructions regarding prepayment of the state-mandated fees. Payment must be received by the Coroner’s Office before the reports can be mailed. The same state-mandated fees listed above 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.
This varies case by case, depending on the type and extent of the investigation. If an autopsy or toxicology testing were performed, it may be at least 4-6 weeks before we receive all necessary reports needed to issue the final cause and manner of death.
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 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.
Generally it only takes 1-2 days, but can vary depending upon the extent of the investigation. The funeral director will coordinate the release on your behalf.
The next step for the next-of-kin is to select a funeral home or cremation service for your loved one. The Coroner’s Office will release your loved one to the care of a funeral home or cremation service of your choosing upon completion of our investigation. Inform the Deputy Coroner of which funeral home or cremation service you have selected, and be sure to inform the designated funeral home or cremation service that your loved one is in the care of the Chester County Coroner’s Office. The designated funeral home or cremation service will then contact the Coroner’s Office to make arrangements to transfer your loved one into their care.
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.