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FAQs

A Message From Your Coroner
During the past several years the Coroner's Office has seen a dramatic increase in natural cardiovascular disease related deaths for persons 50 years of age and younger. Our office has investigated a number of cardiac-related natural deaths during 2000-2003.

Many people seem unaware that symptoms they are experiencing are signs of cardiovascular disease. Others refuse medical treatment or are noncompliant with their physician's orders. Some of the early warning signs of possible cardiovascular trouble include, but are not limited to heavy or squeezing chest pain, aching in the arm or shoulder, nausea, dizziness, weakness, rapid and or irregular heart beat, shortness of breath, burning indigestion type feeling around the heart, numbness or tingling, and sweating. If you or someone you know experiences any of these signs or symptoms seek medical attention at once. Do Not Hesitate to Call 911.
Q.
Who reports the death to the coroner?
A.
Section 5/3-3020: Every law enforcement official, funeral director, ambulance attendant, hospital director or administrator or person having custody of the body...and any Physician (if cause is from other than natural or non-reportable causes) in attendance upon such a decedent at the time of his/her death, shall notify the Coroner promptly. Any such person failing to do so shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.
Q.
Who signs the death certificate?
A.
Section 5/3-3018: Every Coroner, as soon as he/she shall have completed his/her investigation of the cause and circumstances to death coming within his/her jurisdiction, shall issue a death certificate.
Q.
What is an inquest?
A.
An inquest is a legal public inquiry (hearing) into the manner of death in which the coroner and six jurors sit in a quasi-judicial fashion and evidence is presented (medical, investigative and legal) to determine the manner and circumstances surrounding a death. Inquests assist the following: public health agencies, public and private organizations and law enforcement agencies in an attempt to detect foul play or hazardous conditions. Family members may attend and learn all the known facts surrounding the death of a loved one.
What authority does the coroner have in regard to investigation into the circumstances of the death?
A.
Section 513-3013: In cases of apparent suicide, homicide or accidental death, the Coroner shall...summon a jury of six persons...and conduct an inquest into the manner of death. All deaths in state institutions and all deaths of wards of the State in private care facilities...shall be reported to the Coroner of the County in which the facility is located.
Q.
What authority does the coroner have in regard to the dead body?
A.
Section 513-3019: No dead body...or the personal property of such a deceased person, shall be handled, moved, disturbed, embalmed or removed from the place of death by any person, except with the permission of the Coroner. Any person knowingly violating the provisions of this Section is guilty of Class A misdemeanor.

Section 513-3015: Where a death has occurred and the circumstances concerning the death are suspicious, obscure, or mysterious and the cause of death cannot be established definitely except by autopsy, it shall be the duty of the Coroner to cause an autopsy to be performed.

Section 513-3021: The Coroner shall release the body of the decedent to the next-of-kin or to the funeral director selected by such persons. Authorization of appropriate next-of-kin is required by the Stephenson County Coroner's Office.
Q.
What is an autopsy?
A.
An autopsy is a surgical procedure (internal and external examination of the body) used to aid the coroner in establishing a cause of death in those cases where the cause cannot be established with a reasonable degree of certainty without an autopsy or mandated by state statue.

An autopsy is performed by a licensed forensic pathologist who has been certified by the State of Illinois.
Q.
Does the family need to consent to an autopsy before the coroner may authorize that one be performed?
A.
No. The coroner may order an autopsy to be performed in any case deemed necessary. In matters of death investigation, the coroner has absolute and complete authority and unlimited powers to:
  • Investigate
  • Make chemical analysis of body tissues
  • Subpoena
  • Arrest
Q.
What are the responsibilities of the coroner?
A.
The responsibilities of the coroner are to ensure that the proper scientific studies are performed:
  • Autopsy
  • Toxicology tests
  • Microscopic examinations
  • Bacteriology
  • X-rays
  • Fingerprinting
  • Taking and gathering reports
  • Notification of death to families
  • On-scene investigation
  • Photographing
  • Transportation of victims assuring chain of evidence security
  • Evidence collecting
  • Dental examination and identification
  • Meeting with survivors
  • Presiding at inquests
  • Issuance of death certificates and cremation permits cooperating with
    • Medical agencies
    • Funeral Directors
    • Law enforcement agencies
    • Fire rescue & EMS departments
    • And others
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