The purpose of any death investigation is to determine cause and manner of death.
Cause of Death is the disease or injury that begins the process that leads to death, the "what happened" that resulted in death. (ie: Cardiac Arrhythmia due to Left Ventricular Hypertrophy)
Manner of Death is the circumstance surrounding the death, the "how" did death occur. Manner of Death is classified as natural, accident, suicide, homicide or undetermined.
Many different tools are used to make these determinations that ultimately be recorded on a permanent death certificate.
These tools include:
- Scene Investigation - Interviews with family, friends, witnesses, first responders, and/or law enforcement
- Medical History - Review of medical and surgical records, interviews with treating physicians, nurses, caretakers
- Autopsy - An external exam and internal surgical procedure performed by a forensic pathologist. This is performed on a case by case basis as outlined in the Illinois State Statutes and at the discretion of the Coroner. Preliminary results are available the day on which it is performed. A final report is available, generally, within 4-6 weeks. The family will be notified of all findings when they are available.
- Toxicology Testing - Testing of body fluids including blood, urine, vitreous, among others, to determine the presence of drugs, both prescription and illicit, in a decedent. Appropriate specimens are sent to an accredited forensics laboratory. Results typically take 4-6 weeks due to the scientific processes needed to quantitate the amount of each drug present, When all testing is final results will be discussed with family and information forwarded to the appropriate authorities.
- Histology - This is a microscopic examination of tissue samples taken at Autopsy. Histology is performed at the discretion of the Pathologist and Coroner. This involves processing of tissues, preparation of slides, and interpretation of findings.
- Other - Many other tests and consultants may be used in a death investigation. Results of any and all findings will be made known to families as they are available.