Colorado

Medicolegal Death Investigation System

Is medical death investigation system centralized, county-based, or district-based?
County. Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 30-10-601.

If centralized, in which department or agency is the system housed?
Not applicable.

Does the state system have a coroner, medical examiner, or coroners and medical examiners?
Coroner. Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 30-10-601.

“In practice” notes
In the city/county of Denver, the Office of the Medical Examiner is led by a chief medical examiner/coroner, who is appointed by the manager of the Department of Environmental Health. Denver, Colo., Code tit. I, § 2.12.2.

Is there a state medical examiner?
No.

If so, what is the state medical examiner’s role?
Not applicable.

In what department or agency is the state medical examiner’s office located?
Not applicable.

Are there deputies?
The coroner of each county is authorized to appoint a deputy.
Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 30-10-602.

If so, what are the deputies’ roles?
The coroner of each county may delegate any of the coroner’s powers to one or more deputies who shall then have the same duties with respect thereto as the coroner has. Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 30-10-602.

What are the qualifications for deputies?
Unspecified.

Qualifications, Term of Office, and Training

Is the coroner or medical examiner position elected?
Yes. Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 30-10-601.

If so, how many years is the term of office?
Four. Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 30-10-601.

What are the qualifications specified by law?
A person is eligible to hold the office of coroner if the person

(a) Is a citizen of the United States and a resident of the state of Colorado and of the county in which the person will hold the office of coroner;

(b) Has earned a high school diploma or its equivalent or a college degree . . .

Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 30-10-601.5.

(1) A person who is elected or appointed to the office of coroner for the first time shall attend, at the first opportunity after the election or appointment, a training course for new coroners of at least forty hours using the curriculum developed by the C.C.S.T. board. The course shall be prepared and presented by qualified instructors from the Colorado coroners association or another training provider approved by the C.C.S.T. board. At the request of a new coroner, the C.C.S.T. board may decide that a combination of education, experience, and training satisfies the requirement to complete the training course for new coroners.

(2) A person who is elected or appointed to the office of coroner for the first time shall, within one year of taking office, obtain certification in basic medical-legal death investigation from the Colorado coroners association or another training provider approved by the C.C.S.T. board. . .

(3) Each coroner shall complete a minimum of sixteen hours of in- service training provided by the Colorado coroners association or by another training provider approved by the C.C.S.T. board during each year of the coroner’s term. At the request of a coroner, the C.C.S.T. board may decide that a combination of education, experience, and training satisfies the requirement to complete sixteen hours of in-service training annually . . .

Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 30-10-601.8.

(2)(a) Except as provided in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this subsection (2), all forensic autopsies required to be performed pursuant to subsection (1) of this section shall be performed by a board-certified forensic pathologist.

(b) A physician who has completed a forensic pathology fellowship and is practicing forensic pathology in Colorado and who is not a board-certified forensic pathologist as of May 4, 2011, may perform a forensic autopsy required pursuant to subsection (1) of this section.

(c) A forensic pathologist who has completed a forensic pathology fellowship may perform forensic autopsies for four years from the date of completion of the fellowship before becoming a board-certified forensic pathologist.

(d) A pathology resident or forensic pathology fellow may perform a forensic autopsy required pursuant to subsection (1) of this section under the direct supervision of a board-certified forensic pathologist.

(e) For purposes of this subsection (2), “direct supervision” means supervision that is within the facility where a pathology resident or forensic pathology fellow is performing an autopsy and that requires a board-certified forensic pathologist’s presence and availability for prompt consultation.

Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 30-10-606.5.

Investigations/Autopsies

What types of deaths are required to be investigated?
(a) From external violence, unexplained cause, or under suspicious circumstances;

(b) Where no physician is in attendance or where, though in attendance, the physician is unable to certify the cause of death;

(c) From thermal, chemical, or radiation injury;

(d) From criminal abortion, including any situation where such abortion may have been self-induced;

(e) From a disease which may be hazardous or contagious or which may constitute a threat to the health of the general public;

(f) While in the custody of law enforcement officials or while incarcerated in a public institution;

(g) When the death was sudden and happened to a person who was in good health; or

(h) From an industrial accident.

Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 30-10-606.

What types of deaths are required to be autopsied?
The coroner shall perform a forensic autopsy or have a forensic autopsy performed as required by section 30-10-606.5 or upon the request of the district attorney. Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 30-10-606.

(1)(a) The coroner shall perform a forensic autopsy or have a forensic autopsy performed in accordance with the circumstances in the most recent version of the “forensic autopsy performance standards” adopted by the national association of medical examiners, when the death is apparently nonnatural and occurs in a facility or during services regulated by the department of human services, and when the death is the result of an automobile accident and a hospital physician has not documented the extent of the injuries . . . Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 30-10-606.5.

Does the state require that pathologists perform the autopsies?
Yes, . . . all forensic autopsies required to be performed pursuant to subsection (1) of this section shall be performed by a board-certified forensic pathologist [or physician who is pathologist-in-training]. Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 30-10-606.5.

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Page last reviewed: January 15, 2015