Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
The County Code
Act of August 9, 1955 (P.L. 323, No. 130)
As Amended Section 1237.
a. The Coroner, having a view of the body, shall investigate the facts and circumstances concerning deaths which appear to have happened within the county, regardless where the cause thereof may have occurred, for the purpose of determining whether or not an autopsy should be conducted or an inquest thereof should be had, in the following cases:
(1) Sudden deaths not caused by readily recognizable disease or wherein the cause of death cannot be properly certified by a physician on the basis of prior (recent) medical attendance;
(2) Deaths occurring under suspicious circumstances, including those where alcohol, drugs or other toxic substances may have had a direct bearing on the outcome;
(3) Deaths occurring as a result of violence or trauma, whether apparently homicidal, suicidal or accidental (including, but not limiting to, those due to mechanical, thermal, chemical, electrical or radiational injury, drowning, cave-ins and subsidences);
(4) Any death in which trauma, chemical injury, drug overdose or reaction to drugs or medication or medical treatment, was a primary or secondary, direct or indirect, contributory, aggravating or precipitating cause of death;
(5) Operative and peri-operative deaths in which the death is not readily explainable on the basis of prior diseases;
(6) Any death wherein the body is unidentified or unclaimed;
(7) Deaths known or suspected due to contagious disease and constituting a public hazard;
(8) Deaths occurring in prison, a penal institution, or while in the custody of the police;
(9) Deaths of persons whose bodies are to be cremated, buried at sea, or otherwise disposed of so as to be thereafter unavailable for examination;
(10) Sudden infant death syndrome; and
(11) Still Births.
2. The purpose of the investigation shall be to determine the cause of any such death and to determine whether or not there is sufficient reason for the coroner to believe that any such death may have resulted from criminal acts or criminal neglect of persons other than the deceased.
3. As part of the investigation the Coroner shall determine the identity of the deceased and assure that the next of kin of the deceased has been notified.
Sudden Deaths Defined
The coroner shall regard any death as sudden if it occurs without prior medical attendance by a person who may lawfully execute a certificate of death in this Commonwealth, or if, within twenty-four hours of death, the decedent was discharged from such medical attendance or a change of such medical attendance had occurred, or if any such medical attendance began within twenty-four hours of death and the medical attendant refuses or is unable to certify the cause of death. Medical attendance includes hospitalization.
The provisions of this section shall not be construed to affect the coroner's discretion as to whether or not any death was suspicious, nor shall they be construed to authorize a coroner to investigate a sudden death any further than necessary to determine the cause and manner of death.