Coroner/Medical Examiner Laws

Medicolegal Death Investigation System

Is medical death investigation system centralized, county-based, or district-based?
County-based. 55 Il. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 5/3-3003.

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.

If the office of coroner has been abolished in a county by referendum and the referendum did not provide for the performance, by another person, of the duties previously performed by the coroner, the county board shall select a person to perform the duties previously performed by the coroner. [Only Cook County has a medical examiner]. 55 Il. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 5/3-3044.

“In practice” notes

Is there a state medical examiner?

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?
Each coroner may appoint one or more deputies as the coroner, in his or her sole discretion, determines necessary and appropriate, subject to county board appropriations. 55 Il. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 5/3-3040.

If so, what are the deputies’ roles?
Deputy coroners, duly appointed and qualified, may perform any and all of the duties of the coroner in the name of the coroner, and the acts of such deputies shall be held to be acts of the coroner. 55 Il. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 5/3-3042.

What are the qualifications for deputies?

Qualifications, Term of Office, and Training

Is the coroner or medical examiner position elected?
Coroners: elected or appointed
Medical examiner: appointed

10 Il. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 5/2A-18; 55 Il. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 5/3-3043.

If so, how many years is the term of office?
Four. 10 Il. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 5/2A-18.

What are the qualifications specified by law?
The minimum standard coroners basic training course shall consist of 40 hours of training for 5 consecutive days. Ill. Admin. Code tit. 20, § 1760.201.

Within 30 days of assuming office, a coroner elected to that office for the first time shall apply for admission to the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board coroners training program. Completion of the training program shall be within 6 months of application . . . Every coroner shall attend at least 24 hours of accredited continuing education for coroners in each calendar year . . . 55 Il. Comp. Stat. Ann.
§ 5/3-3001.

Any medical examination or autopsy conducted pursuant to this Division shall be performed by a physician duly licensed to practice medicine in all of its branches, and wherever possible by one having special training in pathology. In Class I counties, medical examinations or autopsies (including those performed on exhumed bodies) shall be performed by physicians appointed or designated by the coroner, and in Class II counties by physicians appointed or designated by the Director of Public Health upon the recommendation of the advisory board on necropsy service to coroners after the board has consulted with the elected coroner . . . No coroner may perform any autopsy required or authorized by law unless the coroner is a pathologist whose services are requested by the coroner of another county. 55 Il. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 5/3-3014.


What types of deaths are required to be investigated?
Every coroner, whenever, as soon as he knows or is informed that the dead body of any person is found, or lying within his county, whose death is suspected of being:

(a) A sudden or violent death, whether apparently suicidal, homicidal or accidental, including but not limited to deaths apparently caused or contributed to by thermal, traumatic, chemical, electrical or radiational injury, or a complication of any of them, or by drowning or suffocation, or as a result of domestic violence as defined in the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986;

(b) A maternal or fetal death due to abortion, or any death due to a sex crime or a crime against nature;

(c) A death where the circumstances are suspicious, obscure, mysterious or otherwise unexplained or where, in the written opinion of the attending physician, the cause of death is not determined;

(d) A death where addiction to alcohol or to any drug may have been a contributory cause; or

(e) A death where the decedent was not attended by a licensed physician;

shall go to the place where the dead body is, and take charge of the same and shall make a preliminary investigation into the circumstances of the death.

55 Il. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 5/3-3013.

What types of deaths are required to be autopsied?
Where a death has occurred and the circumstances concerning the death are suspicious, obscure, mysterious, or otherwise unexplained and in the opinion of the examining physician or the coroner the cause of death cannot be established definitely except by autopsy, and where a death has occurred while being pursued, apprehended, or taken into custody by or while in the custody of any law enforcement agency, it is declared that the public interest requires that an autopsy be performed, and it shall be the duty and responsibility of the coroner to cause an autopsy to be performed . . . If a child dies from suspicious or unexplained circumstances, the coroner shall secure the services of a pathologist. The Department of Public Health shall provide coroners and pathologists with a child death autopsy protocol. 55 Il. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 5/3-3015.

Where an infant under 2 years of age has died suddenly and unexpectedly and the circumstances concerning the death are unexplained, an autopsy shall be performed by a physician licensed to practice medicine in all of its branches who has special training in pathology. 55 Il. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 5/3-3016.

Does the state require that pathologists perform the autopsies?

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