Hawaii

Coroner/Medical Examiner Laws

Medicolegal Death Investigation System

Is medical death investigation system centralized, county-based, or district-based?
County-based. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 841-1.

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?
Coroners and medical examiners.

The chief of police or his authorized subordinate of the counties of Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai, and the medical examiner of the city and county of Honolulu, shall, ex officio, be the coroner for his respective county. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 841-1.

The medical examiner or any of the medical examiner’s assistants in the city and county of Honolulu, and any experienced or qualified government physician designated by the coroner in the counties of Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai, shall be the coroner’s physician for such county or city and county. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 841-18.

When a coroner of a county with a population of less than 200,000 requires assistance in conducting an autopsy, the coroner may request the assistance of the medical examiner or coroner of a county with a population of 200,000 or more. The medical examiner or coroner of the county with a population of 200,000 or more, if agreeable, may provide the assistance. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 841-14.6.

“In practice” notes
None.

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 may appoint as many deputy coroners as the coroner may deem necessary to aid the coroner in the discharge of the coroner’s duties as coroner from amongst the subordinates in the coroner’s department. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 841-2.

If so, what are the deputies’ roles?
[T]o aid the coroner in the discharge of the coroner’s duties . . . Haw. Rev.
Stat. § 841-2.

What are the qualifications for deputies?
Unspecified, [but t]he medical examiner or any of the medical examiner’s assistants in the city and county of Honolulu, and any experienced or qualified government physician designated by the coroner in the counties of Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai, shall be the coroner’s physician for such county or city and county. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 841-18.

Qualifications, Term of Office, and Training

Is the coroner or medical examiner position elected?
No. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 841-1.

If so, how many years is the term of office?
Not applicable.

What are the qualifications specified by law?
An autopsy of a deceased person under this chapter shall be performed by an anatomic or forensic pathologist certified as such by the American Board of Pathology. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 841-14.5.

The medical examiner or any of the medical examiner’s assistants in the city and county of Honolulu, and any experienced or qualified government physician designated by the coroner in the counties of Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai, shall be the coroner’s physician for such county or city and county. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 841-18.

Investigations/Autopsies

What types of deaths are required to be investigated?
As soon as any coroner or deputy coroner has notice of the death of any person within the coroner’s or deputy coroner’s jurisdiction as the result of violence, or as the result of any accident, or by suicide, or suddenly when in apparent health, or when unattended by a physician, or in prison, or in a suspicious or unusual manner, or within twenty-four hours after admission to a hospital or institution, the coroner or deputy coroner shall forthwith inquire into and make a complete investigation of the cause of the death. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 841-3.

What types of deaths are required to be autopsied?
If, in the opinion of the coroner, or of the coroner’s physician, or of the prosecuting attorney, or of the chief of police (in the city and county of Honolulu), an autopsy of the remains of any human body appearing to have come to death under any of the circumstances set forth in section 841-3 is necessary in the interest of the public safety or welfare, that person shall cause to have performed, such an autopsy . . . Haw. Rev. Stat. § 841-14.

Does the state require that pathologists perform the autopsies?
Yes, [a]n autopsy of a deceased person under this chapter shall be performed by an anatomic or forensic pathologist certified as such by the American Board of Pathology. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 841-14.5.

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Page last reviewed: January 15, 2015