Greetings from the Delaware County Medical Examiner Office! In the era of recent events, we thought it might be useful to provide some updated guidance regarding reportable and non-reportable deaths and offer further clarification on deaths in which the Medical Examiner Office is responsible for signing of death certificates.
Most patients who are in the hospital with an exacerbation or complication of an established diagnosis; or newly diagnosed disease, and ultimately succumb to such are natural deaths and are not reportable to the Medical Examiner Office. The treating provider in the hospital (or other hospital clinician) must accept responsibility for signing the death certificate.
Some patients may be reported to the Medical Examiner Office; however, most will not be brought to the medical examiner office for examination, and the treating provider other hospital provider, or primary care provider must take responsibility for the death certificate.
In instances where a person dies and is suspected to have been hastened by a non-natural event (e.g., fall with broken hip or subdural hematoma, gunshot wound, illicit or prescription drug abuse), the death should be reported to the Medical Examiner Office. This is true regardless of the length of hospitalization. The Medical Examiner Office in Delaware County has the sole authority to complete a death certificate in all non-natural deaths.
Reportable deaths in Pennsylvania are specified in Pennsylvania state law, specifically 3 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3092. Deaths occurring in these categories in Delaware County must be reported to the Medical Examiner Office. To include the following:
(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 limited to, those due to mechanical, thermal, chemical, electrical or radiational injury, drowning, cave-ins and subsidence’s);
(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 disease;
(6) any death wherein the body is unidentified or unclaimed;
(7) deaths known or suspected as due to contagious disease and constituting a public hazard;
(8) deaths occurring in prison or 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 deaths; and
Report of Death Form
Report of Death Form (Prison)