Adams County Coroner's Office FAQ's
Adams County Coroner's Office FAQ's
No. The coroner report, autopsy and toxicology reports are not public record. These reports contain information that is protected by Federal and State Laws. State Law requires that ONLY the following information be made available for public view: Name of decedent, cause and manner of death, age of decedent, date and time of death and Coroner’s name.
The coroner investigates only sudden, suspicious, violent and unexplained deaths. This includes deaths of persons who may appear to have died from natural causes but are not under a doctor's care or do not have a significant medical history. The Coroner's office must also review all deaths of "persons whose bodies are to be cremated, buried at sea or otherwise disposed of so as to be thereafter unavailable for examination" before final disposition by the funeral director.
The Coroner hires Pathologists or Forensic Pathologists to perform autopsies and report their findings to the Coroner.
Certified copies of the death certificate are available from the Funeral Director for a period of time. After that period of time, copies may be purchased from the Pennsylvania Department of Vital Records. Our office does not have additional death certificates.
Each case is evaluated independently to determine the cause and manner of death. If the Coroner is unable to determine the cause and manner of death, the law requires that "she shall perform or order an autopsy".
If the Coroner orders an autopsy because she is unable to establish the cause and manner of death, the family does not have to give permission. If the Coroner does not order an autopsy, the family always has the right to have one done at their own expense.
The only income generated by the Coroner's office is fees charged for copies of reports and for cremation releases. Generally these reports are requested by insurance companies and/or attorneys to help them to verify the circumstances of the death. Actually the fee is for the information in the report, as it is often used to help determine whether to pay an insurance claim, whether double indemnity applies or whether a lawsuit may be successful.
If determined after a preliminary Coroner’s investigation, forensic examination, and review of medical records, the cause of death will generally be available to the legal next-of-kin within 24 to 48 hours after the death is reported to the Coroner’s Office. If further testing is required, it may take several weeks before a cause of death can be determined.
Personal effects are released directly to the legal next of kin or legal designee when notification is made. Recipients must sign a personal effects release form, a copy of the form will be sent to them at their request.
The taxpayers of Adams County pay for services ordered by the Coroner as part of her official duties. These expenses are included in the Coroner's annual budget.
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. Each of these deaths must be reviewed and often contact must be made with the physician's office or the medical records department of the facility where death occurred. This additional workload justifies a specific fee to be paid by the users of the specific service rather than by the taxpayers in general.