If you need to report a death to our office or want to inquire if a death falls under our jurisdiction, please call the central office number (801-816-3850) and you will be connected with an investigator. Deaths that fall under our jurisdiction are dictated by the Medical Examiner’s Act and are as follows:
26-4-7. Custody by Medical Examiner
Upon notification under Section 26-4-8 or investigation by the medical examiner’s office, the medical examiner shall assume custody of a deceased body if it appears that death was:
- by violence, gunshot, suicide, or accident (including all motor vehicle deaths);
- sudden death while in apparent good health;
- unattended deaths, except that an autopsy may only be performed in accordance with the provisions of Subsection 26-4-9(3);
- under suspicious or unusual circumstances;
- resulting from poisoning or overdose of drugs;
- resulting from diseases that may constitute a threat to the public health;
- resulting from disease, injury, toxic effect, or unusual exertion incurred within the scope of the decedent’s employment;
- due to sudden infant death syndrome;
- resulting while the decedent was in prison, jail, police custody, the state hospital, or in a detention or medical facility operated for the treatment of persons with a mental illness, persons who are emotionally disturbed, or delinquent persons;
- associated with diagnostic or therapeutic procedures; or
- described in this section when request is made to assume custody by a county or district attorney or law enforcement agency in connection with a potential homicide investigation or prosecution.
Designated Representative (DesRep) cases
If a death falls under the jurisdiction of the Medical Examiner and the patient had been under in-patient medical care for a period of time, the death still needs to be reported to the medical investigator on duty. After discussing the circumstances of the case, the death may be classified as a ‘Designated Representative’ (DesRep) case.
This designation indicates there has been sufficient diagnostic testing for a cause of death to be determined. If death is due to trauma, there will be a query as to the type of injuries and their documentation. The possibility of criminal charges will also be taken into consideration as to whether the body is sent to the OME or not. An OME case number will be assigned but the treating physician will be authorized to complete the death certificate.
If a death is reported to the OME and after review the circumstances do not necessitate that the OME assume jurisdiction, the case will be handled as an ‘Inquiry’ by our office. This may require you to provide at least some basic personal information regarding the deceased as well as information regarding your diagnoses and treatments of the individual.
In accordance with Utah Health Code 26-4-14 “The physician in attendance at the last illness of a deceased person who, in the judgment of the physician, does not appear to have died in a manner described in Section 26-4-7 (see above), shall certify the cause of death to his best knowledge and belief.”
Be aware that delayed deaths, even several years later, that are the result of complications of previous trauma, still fall under OME jurisdiction and need to be reported to our office. For example: a person that is a quadriplegic as the result of a motor vehicle accident 10 years ago develops pneumonia and dies should be reported to the OME.
After consultation we will take jurisdiction and assign a case number. We may elect to do an examination at our facility or we may work with you and have you certify the death as a Designated Representative of the OME.
OME Death Certificate Review
You may be contacted by an investigator from the OME to clarify information on death certificates that have been forwarded to us from Vital Statistics.
Death certificates filed with the Utah Department of Vital Statistics may be forwarded to our office for review if:
- The cause of death listed falls under the jurisdiction of Utah Health Code 24-6-7 and the death has not been reported to the OME.
- A request is made for cremation or for transport of the remains out of the state.
- Confusing or questionable causes of death are listed.
Box 24, Part 1 of a Utah Certificate of Death states “Enter the chain of events – diseases, injuries or complications – that directly caused the death. DO NOT enter terminal events such as cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest, or ventricular fibrillation without showing the etiology”.
Cardiac and/or respiratory arrest are considered ‘mechanisms’ of death and not ‘causes’ of death. Everyone dies of cardiac arrest and therefore should not be listed as the “Immediate Cause of Death” unless an etiology is put forth on the next line(Due To). The causes of death should explain the series of disease processes or chain of events following trauma that led to the death of the individual.
Please be aware that an incorrectly completed death certificate will delay disposition arrangements for the family until these issues are resolved. If you have any questions regarding how to fill out a death certificate or to screen a death please contact our central office (801-816-3850) as soon as possible following the death.
Helpful links for preparing a Death Certificate:
A treating physician may request a copy of the Report of Examination from our office at no charge. Physicians must make their requests on letterhead stationery and the request must have the signature of a physician before it is considered valid. Requests can be mailed or faxed (801-964-1240) to our office.
The OME may need to request medical records from your facility to assist in the investigation of a death for clarification of mental and physical diagnoses, treatment plans, past medical conditions, prescribed medications, and compliance of the patient with prescribed therapies.
Utah Code Section 26-4-11 states “failure to submit reports other than reports of a county attorney, district attorney, or law enforcement agency, upon written request from the medical examiner within 10 days is a class B misdemeanor”.
The OME is a strong supporter of organ and tissue donation. For your part, timely interaction with the donor services representative that may attempt to contact you will expedite this process. If a death falls under the jurisdiction of the OME, the organ donor service representative will then contact the on-call Medical Examiner to obtain permission to proceed with donation.