The men and women of the DuPage County Coroner's Office know that we fill a vital role in Law Enforcement and Public Health by ensuring an honest and thorough investigation of an individual's death. However, another of our most important duties is to the families who have lost a loved one - often suddenly and unexpectedly or without warning.
Whatever the circumstances, we vow to try and work with families by being timely, responsive and available to answer questions and help them through the process as it pertains to our Office. Our Investigators and Clerical staff seek to excel in this function, and our staff Forensic Pathologists can help family members try to understand how the death occurred.
The following pages (also listed in links in the menu to the left) provide a general outline, basic information, and valuable links from everything to obtaining copies of reports, fees, and information regarding bereavement resources.
A sudden and tragic loss often accompanies the need to make very serious decisions while still suffering from the disbelief of what has happened. These decisions may include using services with which you are unfamiliar and involve matters that you have not previously considered. It is our hope that we can help ease your burden in some small way by providing information that may be helpful to you now and in the coming weeks. Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.
PLEASE HELP US to add names of COUNTY and PRIVATE RESOURCES to assist grieving families. - send us information or organizations who you believe should be added to this page. Thank You.
The Coroner must issue a Permit to Cremate when cremation is planned for your loved one.
When the remains to be cremated are not subject to an investigation by the Coroner, a funeral director must present a signed Medical Certificate of Death when requesting a cremation permit. The case is reviewed by a staff member to verify that the death should have been certified by the attending doctor. If all appears in order the cremation permit is issued. If there are questions regarding a death, those questions will need to be resolved by further investigation before a permit is issued.
When the Coroner is investigating a death, the permit to cremate will only be issued after the Coroner is completely satisfied that all investigative procedures necessary for a proper and thorough investigation have been completed. A temporary death certificate is prepared and filed with Vital Records at the DuPage County Health Department, and a Cremation Permit will also be issued.
Most people are under the care of a physician and have no suspicious circumstances at the time of their death. In these situations the attending physician will certify the death certificate at the approval of the Coroner.
When a person does not have an attending physician and dies in a hospital emergency room, or within 24-hours after being admitted to a hospital, or at home, or at any public place, or under any other kind of unknown circumstance, the Coroner’s office is notified. The circumstances and details of the death are reviewed. If it appears to be a death of natural causes the attending physician will be contacted. The circumstances are reviewed with the attending physician. If the deceased has a medical history that supports a cause of death that is consistent with the circumstances surrounding the death and the physician agrees, the case is released to the doctor to sign the death certificate. If the attending physician does not have enough medical history to support the cause of death, or if the attending physician is not available, or if the attending physician refuses to certify the death, the death is investigated by the Coroner.
Many methods are involved in proper death investigation. Toxicology samples are obtained and sent to a laboratory for analysis. A decision is made as to the necessity for an autopsy. Medical records may need to be subpoenaed from a hospital or doctor.
When the necessary medical records have been obtained and the toxicology and autopsy reports are complete, and it is evident that the death being investigated is from natural causes, the death certificate is signed and filed by the Coroner.
The Coroner also reviews all deaths certified on a Medical Certificate of death when a cremation permit is requested to assure that the death should have been certified as a natural cause of death and there is no need for further investigation.
Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)
The purpose of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is the prevention of sudden, unexpected death. Sometimes people feel they do not want CPR to be initiated, such as cases of terminal, irreversible illness, when death is expected. A physician can issue an order to the effect that no CPR measures be initiated on behalf of the patient. This is usually a decision made by a physician and patient or the physician and the patient’s family. The physician and the patient or the physician and the family member that has Medical Power of Attorney for the patient must sign this order. This order is referred to as a DNR, or DO NOT RESUSCITATE ORDER. If the patient is in the hospital the staff is made aware of this order. If the patient is at home they should have this order readily available so that if 911 is called, the responding agency knows about the order and does not initiate CPR.
Home Deaths When Enrolled with a Hospice Program
Some people who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness choose to enroll in a hospice program and stay at home rather than a hospital setting. There are many hospice programs serving DuPage County. A hospice staff member can help the patient and family cope with managing care in a home setting. They can also provide support during this stressful and emotional time. They will often be in attendance at the time of death, or immediately after, and will call the doctor and funeral director the family has chosen. The hospice patient must have a valid DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order on file. The funeral director arranges for the removal of the remains in a quiet manner. A police agency is not called to respond to the scene in this type of situation and the Deputy Coroner must be called but may not respond to the residence. Either the hospice nurse or the funeral director reports the death to the DuPage County Coroner’s Office. The report is taken over the phone and the Deputy Coroner taking the call releases the body to the funeral director.
Home Deaths Without Hospice
Some people choose to take care of a loved one at home and do not want to enroll in a hospice program. Usually some type of home health professional is involved in their case and visits the home on a regular basis, usually reporting to the attending physician. As the subject’s condition deteriorates, they may be hospitalized shortly before death, or, they may die at home. If they die at home under these circumstances, 911 should be called and when death has been confirmed the Coroner’s Office will be contacted and requested to respond to the scene. The circumstances of the death will be reviewed and the body examined to confirm that there were no suspicious aspects. The attending physician will be contacted. If all appears in order and the physician is willing to certify the death, the funeral director is called for removal and the remains are released to the funeral home.
If a person dies at home and the death was not expected, the Coroner’s Office will be notified and will investigate the death. When the investigation is completed, the body will be released to the funeral home chosen by the family.
Nursing Home Deaths With Hospice
Those who reside in a nursing home may also have the option of enrolling in a hospice program. The hospice agency can provide support for the family and patient in a nursing home setting. If the family cannot visit the patient very often because of distance or other factors, the hospice nurse can serve an invaluable service of providing support for both the family and the patient. If a person is enrolled in a hospice program and dies in a nursing home the hospice nurse reports the death to the Coroner.
Nursing Home Deaths Without Hospice
If the nursing home is considered a state facility they must report all deaths. Most deaths in private nursing homes in DuPage County report are reported. However, if a person is in a nursing facility because of injury or they have sustained a recent fall or injury, or any other trauma, the death must be reported.
The DuPage County Coroner’s Office is mandated to monitor nursing home deaths in such a way as to monitor neglect and abuse. We take this responsibility very seriously while also understanding that most nursing homes are excellent facilities who take the care of these elderly patients very well. The investigation may include testing and autopsy dependent on the circumstances.
Deaths that fall under our jurisdiction require our approval for donation, and we do all that is possible to allow all possible procurement in every case where donation is desired by the family. We encourage organ and tissue donation, and approve the vast majority of donation requests under our jurisdiction, but there are rare exceptions where limits may be placed due to the nature of the death or the involvement of law enforcement.
Our office is committed to carrying out a person's wishes to be a lifesaving donor. Through our partnership with Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network, we make donation an option for the families that we serve. Gift of Hope is a not-for-profit organ procurement organization (OPO) dedicated to coordinating organ and tissue donation in the northern three-quarters of Illinois and northwest Indiana.
For family members, the death of a loved one is one of life's most difficult experiences. But donation gives meaning to life, even after death. The decision to be a lifesaving donor may offer your family some comfort in knowing that your legacy carries on, and you have made a difference in the lives of others.
Who among us... would not want to receive an organ or tissue if that donation could save our life or otherwise significantly improve our health?...would not have a tremendous sense of fulfillment through knowing that upon our death our organs and tissues, or those of someone we love, that were going to restore health, or life itself, to other human beings?
By registering your decision to be a donor, you get the opportunity to give other people a second chance at life. As an organ and tissue donor, you can help save and enhance lives—as many as 25 people or more.
To become an organ and tissue donor, join Illinois' new organ/tissue donor consent registry. This is a confidential registry managed by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s Office.
Register and review the donation process - click on "Be a donor."
To register only: www.LifeGoesOn.com At any Illinois Secretary of State driver's services facility Call 800-210-2106
The Role of the Coroner's Office in Examining a Death in DuPage County
Jurisdiction (Why did our office get involved?)
Under Illinois law the Coroner is both required and empowered to determine the cause and circumstance of certain deaths. Additional details of the powers and jurisdiction of the Coroner. In general, deaths of a sudden and unexpected nature are investigated. All deaths related to any type of injury or intoxication must be investigated by our office. This includes deaths that are obviously due to trauma (such as motor vehicle related fatalities) and deaths that are known or suspected to be due to drug or alcohol intoxication. In addition, if an injury or intoxication merely contributes to the death - even in a small way - or is suspected to have contributed to death, the death falls under our jurisdiction. This applies to situations where an individual dies of complications of a prior injury, even if that injury occurred many years ago.
Decision to Further Investigate
If the cause and manner of death cannot be determined by the Deputy Coroner or Coroner at the scene or the death must be investigated my law then the decedent will be brought back to our facility.
An examination may be conducted by a physician specializing in forensic pathology, to determine the cause of death, and a death certificate will be completed. This examination normally occurs as soon as is possible. Our forensic pathologist staff will assess whether an autopsy and/or laboratory tests are required as part of the examination. An autopsy is a thorough examination of the body, internally and externally, performed to document injuries, diseases, and even normal conditions of the body. The procedure is performed by a medical doctor with special training in recognizing the appearance of injuries and the effects of diseases. In some situations an examination of only the external surfaces of the body is performed.
In general, the autopsy will not disfigure the body and it will be perfectly suitable for funeral viewing. Our staff has worked with local Funeral Directors for many years in an effort to preserve the body's appearance for viewing, whenever possible, and still fulfill our legal obligations and law enforcement function.
While we try to accommodate all the wishes of family members and the decedent, occasionally the circumstances of the death necessitate that an autopsy be performed despite the oppositions of the family or the decedent. Common reasons include the involvement of a law enforcement agency, mandates specified in Illinois Law, and our legal obligation to investigate deaths under our jurisdiction.
If it is determined that an autopsy, external examination or toxicology analysis is required to determine or confirm the cause and manner of death pursuant to Illinois law tissue(s)/organ(s)/body fluid(s) may be retained for analysis and/or evidentiary purposes. Tissues/organs/body fluids retained at autopsy or as part of any coroner investigative procedure will be disposed of pursuant to Illinois Law and Health and Safety Codes.
Release of the Body
The decedent’s body will be available for release after completion of the examination, and investigation. Upon receipt of a signed authorization (Order for Release of Remains) from the legal next-of-kin, the decedent’s body will be released to a mortuary or other service (e.g. cremation society, transportation service) designated in the authorization. This form can also be used to authorize release of property.
The release may be signed by the legal next-of-kin authorized by law to direct disposition of the remains; this person sometimes differs from persons authorized to handle other aspects of the decedent's affairs. The mortuary normally provides the authorization form, obtains the proper signature, and then submits it to us.
At the scene of the death, the Coroner's investigator may take custody of personal property or evidence belonging to the decedent. The property is logged, secured, and available for release to next-of-kin during normal business hours if further investigation is not required. If authorized by the next-of-kin, property may be released to the mortuary for its further delivery to the family. This authorization can be provided on the Order for Release of Remains described above.
In some cases we are unable to determine a definitive cause and/or manner of death on the death certificate immediately following our examination. After the exam is completed, it is sometimes necessary for us to perform microscopic, chemical or toxicological tests in order to determine the exact cause of death.
A temporary death certificate will be issued until these tests and exams are completed and then a final death certificate will be issued. The timing of this is individual and depends on the complexity of the investigation.
Obtaining copies of reports and the Death Certificate
Certified Death Certificates are obtained through the DuPage County Heath Department.
Health Dept. Death Certificates or call (630) 682-7400.
- Name of deceased:
- Place of death:
- Date of death:
- Applicants relationship to the deceased:
- Photocopy of valid state driver's license or state identification - Front & Back
In cases where the cause and manner of death are not determined at the time of the autopsy (in other words, pending further investigation), copies of the autopsy, investigative and toxicology reports will usually be available after the cause of death is determined and a death certificate is filed.
Reports are released only after all the reports (autopsy, investigative, and toxicology) and the death certificate have been completed. We do not prepare preliminary reports.
If you desire these reports, please write, email, or telephone this office with your request. If emailing your request, please provide your relationship to the decedent, your return address (if requesting hard copies), and your phone number in case we have questions.
Full list of fees.
If, when you receive the reports, you have questions, please call our office at 630-407-2600.
When an autopsy is not desired by the family, we try and are usually able to accommodate their wishes. However, often we cannot due to our obligation to fulfill our state mandated function or meet the needs of law enforcement agencies.
You may request certified copies of the death certificate from the mortuary who will obtain them when they are ready from the County’s Health Dept. The telephone number for the Vital Records Office is 630-682-7400 if you wish to order copies directly at the Health Department.