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The Medical Examiner Act

1. Deaths by violence, gunshot, suicide, or accident , except highway accidents. (Utah is unique in the nation in excluding any death resulting or appearing to result from a highway accident from the jurisdiction of the medical examiner or coroner).

2. Sudden death while in apparent health. (This is defined as any instantaneous death without obvious natural cause, death during or following an unexplained syncope or coma, or death during an acute or unexplained rapidly fatal illness).

3. Unattended deaths. (Unattended means that the person has not been seen by a physician within 30 days of their death. Persons who die while under treatment by prayer or spiritual means in accordance with the tenets and practices of a well-recognized church or religious denomination are not considered to be unattended).

4. Deaths under suspicious or unusual circumstances.

5. Deaths resulting from poisoning or overdose of drugs.

6. Deaths resulting from disease, injury, toxic effect or unusual exertion incurred within the scope of the decedent's employment. ( However, highway accident deaths while on the job are excluded).

7. The Medical Examiner may also assist in the identification of a deceased individual. In cases where injury or decomposition make visual identification or fingerprints impossible, the use of dental records may be required.

8. Deaths resulting from diseases which may constitute a threat to the public health.

9. Deaths due to the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

10. Deaths resulting while the deceased was in prison, jail, in police custody, in the state hospital, or in a detention or medical facility operated for the treatment of the mentally ill or emotionally disturbed or delinquent persons.

11. Deaths associated with diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.

Section 26-4- 4 (2) states the medical examiner shall have the authority to conduct investigations, perform any necessary examinations, and retain any samples required for the determination of the cause and manner of death or for scientific purposes. The medical examiner may also request any records relating to the medical care and treatment of an individual whose death is under investigation. Failure to provide records is a Class B misdemeanor.

Section 26-4-16 of the law mandates that in any case where the identity of the decedent is known and the legal next-of-kin have requested release of the body, the body must be released within 24 hours after it has arrived at the medical examiner facility. An extension of this time limit may be ordered by a district court.

The records of the medical examiner are considered confidential and may only be released to the legal next-of kin, an authorized investigative agency and/or a physician who has treated the decedent. Any other requests for information must either be authorized by the legal next of kin or by court order. Subpoenas are not considered a valid request for information under the state's confidentiality rules.

Next of kin may obtain a copy of the Medical Examiner's report by submitting a signed letter identifying the deceased and their relationship. The signature on the letter must be notarized. There is no charge for the first copy of a report sent to next of kin. Subsequent copies require payment of a $25 fee.

Office of the Medical Examiner
48 Medical Drive

Salt Lake City, UT 84113

Telephone: (801) 584-8410 - Fax: (801) 584-8435


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