Reporting a Death
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.
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.
Designated Representative and Inquiry Cases
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.
All Medical Examiner cases need to be treated as potential suspicious deaths and evidence preservation is important. DO NOT remove any medical appliances used during resuscitation or hospitalization. Any clothing removed should accompany the body to our office or be released to law enforcement as evidence if requested. If evidence or tissue was removed during a procedure (bullets, placenta, craniotomy fragments) these should also accompany the body to our office or be released to law enforcement as evidence.
In firearms deaths, suspicious deaths and known homicides, bagging of the hands with paper bags prior to transport to our office will preserve evidence and prevent contamination by blood. Do not use plastic bags as they will result in condensation.
Blood and Tissue Samples Requests
If a deceased person had been an in-patient for a period of time, admission blood samples may be requested for toxicology testing to determine if any degree of intoxication was present at the time of admission to your facility.
In trauma cases that had a short survival time but were extensively transfused, admission samples will also be valuable, not only for toxicology testing but for serology testing by organ or tissue recovery teams.
When meeting with the representative from the funeral home, simply inform them that your loved one is at the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner (OME). The funeral home will contact our office and arrange for transportation of your loved one to the funeral home.
Retention times of laboratory specimens vary from hospital to hospital. If the circumstances surrounding the admission of an individual are consistent with being a potential medical examiner case, we encourage you to mark the specimens to be held for longer than the usual retention time frame in the event that they may be needed.
Records Requests (Hospitals)
Requesting Records from the OME
The admitting facility or the hospital treating physician may request a copy of the report of examination from our office. When the report is finalized a copy will be mailed out. Reports requested by the Medical Records Department or physician must make their requests on letterhead stationary of their facility and the request must have the signature of a physician before it is considered valid. Requests can be mailed to our office or faxed (801) 964-1240.
OME Request for Medical Records of Your Facility
The OME may need to request medical records from your facility to assist in the investigation of a death for the clarification of treatment and care received, mental and physical diagnoses, medications that were prescribed, compliance with prescribed therapies and a description of the terminal events. We appreciate your prompt attention to our requests. Section 26-4-11 of the Utah Health Code 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."
Organ and Tissue Donation (Hospitals)
The OME is a strong supporter of organ and tissue donation. Contacting the donor services representative in your area will expedite organ and tissue donation. 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.
Return of Medical Appliances
If during treatment, a piece of equipment was used but remained with the body and was transported to our office, please contact our office immediately (801)-816-3850 if your facility wishes to have it returned.
If there are special instructions for removal, deactivation or someone needs to personally retrieve the item, please inform us immediately.
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.