FREQUENTLY
ASKED
QUESTIONS?

    How long does it take for a death ruling to be made?
    In most cases, a signed death certificate accompanies the body when it is released by the Coroner.  When there is insufficient information
    available to complete the death certificate, a “Pending” death certificate is issued.  This death certificate enables the funeral services and
    burial to take place while additional chemical, microscopic, slide preparation and examination, and the investigation continues.  At the
    culmination of these tests and investigation, the ruling is made based on all available information.  A supplemental death certificate is
    then issued with the cause of death and the ruling which supersedes the “pending” death certificate.

    When will the Autopsy Report be completed?
    The autopsy report usually takes about four to five weeks to be completed after the autopsy.  If microscopic and chemical tests are
    performed, this time period can lengthen to six to eight weeks.

    Where may the clothing of the deceased be located?
    Usually, the clothing of the deceased is released to the funeral director for disposal or use as the family requests.  In cases of homicide,
    suicides, or vehicular deaths, the clothing may be held by the coroner or the investigating law enforcement agency for use as evidence.
    How is the funeral director selected?
    Most often, the next-of-kin discusses the selection of the funeral director with the other family members, clergy or friends.  The office of the
    coroner is prohibited from recommending a funeral director.  A listing of funeral directors is available in the telephone book as well as
    other sources.

    What is an autopsy and is there a charge for it?
    An autopsy is a systematic examination by a qualified physician of the body of a deceased person for the purpose of determining the
    cause of death.  A record is made on the findings of the autopsy, including microscopic and toxicology laboratory tests.  These laboratory
    tests are conducted before the release of the body to the next-of-kin and for burial.  There's no charge to the next-of-kin for a coroner’s
    autopsy.  Nor for any other test that may be conducted by the coroner.

    When is an autopsy performed?
    Not all persons brought to the coroner's office are autopsied.  Certain cases are not autopsied where no “foul play” is suspected and
    evidence of a natural death is present.  In other cases where the possibility of legal proceedings may arise as a result of a homicide,
    accident, suicide, etc, an autopsy may be performed.  In these cases, both positive and negative information ordinarily is found which
    substantiates the ruling and the cause of death as signed by the coroner.

    Does the coroner need permission from the next-of-kin for an autopsy?
    The coroner does not need permission for an autopsy.  The office of the coroner will attempt to comply with the wishes of the next-of-kin,
    provided this does not conflict with the duties of the coroner as charged by Pennsylvania law.

    Why is the coroner involved?
    Pennsylvania law requires the coroner investigate deaths of persons dying from criminal violence, by accident, by suicide, suddenly when
    unattended by a physician for a reasonable period of time, or in any suspicious or unusual manner.  Another reason the coroner may be
    involved is that the identity of the deceased or next-of-kin is unknown.  Because we live so close to New York State many people die in
    Susquehanna County that were be being treated by a New York State doctor.  The coroner must now complete a Pennsylvania death
    certificate because a New York State licensed doctor cannot sign a Pennsylvania death certificate.

    How do I make arrangements for the body to be released from the coroner's office?
    Routinely, the coroner releases the body to licensed funeral director.  The next-of-kin of the deceased person should notify a funeral
    director who in turn, will arrange transportation for the deceased to the funeral home and obtain the necessary documents for burial or
    cremation.

    Why does the Coroner charge a fee for a Cremation release?     
    The release for cremation is required for all persons whose bodies are to be cremated, buried at sea or otherwise disposed of so as to be
    thereafter unavailable for examination (usually those who are donating the body to science).  The great majority of these deaths are
    certified by the attending physicians and would not otherwise fall under the jurisdiction of the Coroner.  This additional workload justifies a
    specific fee to be paid by the users of the specific service rather than the taxpayers in general.  Approximately 160 cremations are
    authorized each year in this county.

    Will I be charged for coroner services?
    Normally no.  However, there are exceptions.  Should these charges apply, you will be asked by your funeral home or the coroner to pay
    these fees in advance.

    Who will Clean Up the Death Scene?
    After a death, there may be a need to either clean or dispose of contaminated clothing, furniture, carpeting, or other personal belongings.  
    The Coroner’s Office does not provide these services.  We will provide you with phone numbers for such a service upon your request.

    Why does the Coroner refuse to release information about an investigation?
    The Coroner, in conjunction with law enforcement, will often refuse to discuss details of the investigation.  This is not to hide facts but to
    assist law enforcement.  Any information that may jeopardize the outcome of an investigation will not be released.  All information that can
    be released by law will be released once the investigation is concluded.  

    Where can I obtain a Death Certificate?
    Death certificates are filed with the Health Department by the Funeral Director.  Should you require copies, they can be ordered through
    your funeral home.

    Is it necessary for me to come to the Coroner’s Office to identify the body?
    No.  In the majority of the cases, visual identification is not required.  Should it become necessary for you to come in or bring other records
    or x-rays, you will be contacted.  A photograph of the decedent will be vied by the next-of-kin for positive ID when necessary.  

    Why wasn't I notified sooner?
    The corner’s office makes every effort to contact next-of-kin as quickly as possible.  Speedy notification is not always possible due to a
    variety of factors, such as:  The victim had no identification.  To prevent a false notification, the coroner’s office wants to be absolutely sure
    of the identify of the victim before notification.  Please remember that although the victim may have been separated from his/her spouse
    without a legally recognized separation or divorce decree, the spouse is still the legal next-of-kin and is usually the one who will be
    notified.  Sometimes this may present a difficulty to other family members who believe they should be the ones notified.  Locating next-of
    kin, especially if out of state or country, make take some time.  A uniformed Police Office generally makes death notifications for the
    Susquehanna County Coroner’s Office.

    Can the time of an unattended death be determined with certainty?
    No.  In spite of much research, an exact time of death cannot be determined.  An estimate can be made based on a number of physical
    factors but the exact time of an unattended death cannot be determined.

    Politics and the Office of Coroner!
    During any investigation political views are never and may never play a part in determining cause and manner of death.  It discusses me to
    even think politics could be used during an investigation.  This office is not a political office in my eyes.
Office of the Coroner
Susquehanna County , Pennsylvania