Patient Care,

Departments & Programs,UW Hospital and Clinics,Legal Services,Guidance Documents,Summary of Policies Concerning Death in UWHC Facilities

Coroner's Cases

Coroner's Cases - Departments & Programs, UW Hospital and Clinics, Legal Services, Guidance Documents, Summary of Policies Concerning Death in UWHC Facilities


When a death falls into one of the categories that require a report to the coroner, the report needs to be promptly made in the manner specified in UWHC Policy #4.20. Section III(A) of that policy provides: 

  1. The physician pronouncing the death of a patient is responsible for determining whether the death is a coroner's case based on the conditions cited in Section II.A.1. of this policy.
  2. In coroner's cases, if the patient is determined to be brain dead, but is being ventilated to preserve organs for possible transplantation, the coroner must be contacted prior to removal of the organs and must authorize the removal.
  3. The physician will notify the nursing coordinator.
  4. The Nursing Coordinator is responsible for contacting the coroner and relating the following information regarding the deceased to the extent known: name, age, sex, date of birth, social security number, next of kin and their phone number, date and time of death, physician pronouncing death, funeral home, and circumstances of the accident or injury as may be known.
  5. The coroner will give instructions as to the release of the body and whether an autopsy will be performed.
  6. The Nursing Coordinator will relay the coroner's instructions to the physician. The physician will notify the next of kin of the coroner's decision, except when the coroner makes the contact, which usually occurs, when family members are not present for a death that occurs in the Emergency Department.
  7. The coroner may contact the physician directly if additional information is required.
  8. The Nursing Coordinator makes arrangements with Pathology for the autopsy.
  9. If there is suspicion of foul play or suicide, the body will be sealed in the forensic portion of the morgue. The Patient Services Attendant (PSA) at the Veterans Affairs Hospital provides the key to enter and two persons should be present.
  10. If the patient is pronounced dead in the Emergency Department, all identification and belongings remain with the body until the coroner makes his examination.
  11. The nurse and physician report patient information in the patient's clinical record and the record stays with the body.

If there is doubt as to whether the death is a coroner's case the Nursing Coordinator contacts the Risk Management Office or the Administrator on call. UWHC Policy 4.21 (V)(C)(1) 

All reports for deaths in UWHC are made to the Dane County coroner. UWHC Policy #4.20 (II)(A)(2). 

When a death is a coroner's case, follow the coroner's instructions regarding handling the body. Do not take steps to prepare the body until authorized to do so by the coroner. The coroner may take custody of the body. 

Note the OTD must be notified of deaths, even when they are coroner's cases. See section 1 of this summary. The OTD will address issues of coordinating donation with the coroner.