FAQs

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How do I contact the coroner's office?

    Call (970) 382-6397.  If nobody is in, leave a message.  Your call will be returned.  You may also contact the coroner by e-mail at smithjl@co.laplata.co.us.

How do I obtain a copy of the autopsy report?

    Send a written request to:

    Janis Smith
    La Plata County Coroner
    1060 East Second Avenue
    Durango, CO 81301

    Or fax the request to:

    (970) 375-7986

After the autopsy, when will the body be released?

Death Certificate - How and when do I obtain the death certificate?

    Typically, the funeral home that handles the arrangements will provide copies as part of the service agreement.  Copies are also available from the health department, which requires that a copy be filed within five business days.  If the coroner has not made a final determination on cause and manner of death by that time, a temporary certificate will be file stating the cause and manner of death as impending.  A final certificate will be filed when the investigation is concluded and the coroner has made a determination.

How long does an autopsy take?

    There is no simple answer.  Depending on the complexity of the case, an autopsy may take an hour or many hours.  On very rare occasions, autopsy procedures may be performed over a couple of days.

What types of deaths are investigated by the coroner's office?

Is there a charge for the autopsy?

    La Plata County pays the cost of autopsies performed by the coroner.  The family is not charged.

Why are autopsies performed?

    An autopsy is the ultimate medical test.  The coroner performs an autopsy when the cause of death is uncertain, when it is important to rule out certain possibilities, when medical evidence is needed or when other medical or investigative questions require it.

How can I obtain the deceased's personal effects?

    The coroner's office does not retain personal effects.  Most of the time, they remain at the funeral home with the body and are released when the next of kin makes funeral arrangements.  Personal effects that are particularly valuable or that have evidentiary significance may be taken into law enforcement custody, and the law enforcement agency will decide when and to whom they may be released.

Are all deaths reported to the coroner?

What does the coroner's office do?

Does the next of kin need to give permission before an autopsy is done?

    No.  The coroner has full authority to conduct an autopsy in any case falling under coroner jurisdiction.  Family consent is neither required nor sought.

How do I report a death?

    You must call 911. DO NOT call the coroners office directly.

What if I disagree with the coroner's decision to require an autopsy?

    Call me.  While I am always willing to discuss your concerns, my first priority is my obligation to fulfill my statutory responsibility to accurately determine cause and manner of death.

Should I call the police if I come across skeletal remains?

    Yes. Call 911.

What is an autopsy?

    An Autopsy is a detailed examination of a dead body conducted under the authority of the coroner to determine the cause and manner of death.

    To learn more about autopsies, view The Autopsy: What it is, why it's done.

What happens when a death is reported to the coroner's office?

    The coroner or deputy coroner on call responds to the death scene, pronounces death, records preliminary information and arranges for the body to be transported to the mortuary. Depending on the circumstances, the coroner will release the body immediately to the family for funeral arrangements or order that it be held for further investigation, which may include an autopsy.

Why is the coroner's office involved?

Will the coroner need to be there before the body is taken away?

    The coroner will almost always respond to the scene before the body is removed.  VERY rarely, coroner consent to move the body may be made over the phone.

What if I think they are animal remains?

    There is no need to report obvious animal remains.  If you have any questions, call 911. A police officer will respond and decide whether to call the coroner.