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Guidelines for Hospital Staff Reporting Deaths | Print |

The cooperation of hospital staff is essential for the smooth operation of the Medical Examiner's Office.

It is recommended that each hospital appoint a responsible agent(s), office or individual(s) with whom the Medical Examiner can communicate regarding Medical Examiner cases in the hospitals. The agent who is appointed must be well versed with procedures in reporting cases to the Medical Examiner's Office. The FCME office will provide in-service orientation to the responsible agent(s), if needed. Please contact our office to arrange this training. Upon determining that a death falls under the jurisdiction of the Medical Examiner, the designated agent should make the report by telephone to the Medical Examiner's Office. At this time, information regarding the deceased's medical history must be available in order to provide sufficient information to the medical examiner.

In order to assist the Medical Examiner, hospital personnel should use the following procedures with a Medical Examiner case. All are designed to most accurately determine the cause and manner of death.

  • Do not clean a body or clothing after death
  • Special care should be used in cutting and handling of clothing so that valuable evidence such as bullet holes remain intact.
  • All the clothing of the deceased should accompany the body
  • Any I.V. lines, tubes, and catheters should be left in place, as well as endotracheal tubes, dressing, splints, clamps and orthopedic devices. Reusable therapeutic paraphernalia of value will be returned to the hospital upon request
  • Avoid using injury sites for chest tubes, drains, etc. This greatly assists the pathologist in the interpretation of injuries.
  • Do not bind the arms, legs or jaw after death.
  • Any blood, urine, gastric material, or other body fluid collected at the time of admission (or as close to that time as possible) should be saved and retrieved from the lab, if necessary, and accompany the body to the morgue.
  • If possible, admitting blood and urine should be saved on all patients classified in critical condition if their death would result in jurisdiction of the Medical Examiner. This may be helpful in determining cause, manner, and ¬†circumstances of death.
  • If the family wishes to view the body before removal, this is permissible ¬†provided the body is not cleaned or otherwise disturbed. In cases where there ¬†is a potential criminal investigation, viewing should be strongly discouraged. ¬†The Family should be encouraged to wait until the body is at the funeral home ¬†to view it.
  • If surgery has been performed, the location of all debrided tissues and removed ¬†foreign bodies (such as bullets) should be determined so they may be made ¬†available to the medical examiner.
  • When the medical examiner assumes jurisdiction and perinatal or neonatal deaths, ¬†the placenta is also usually needed for examination. Arrangements should be made ¬†to make it available to the medical examiner.
  • The medical records department should prepare to copy portions of the record ¬†requested by the medical examiner. At a minimum, this usually includes the ¬†admission history and physical, the death/discharge summary, and laboratory ¬†reports. Progress notes are also often needed.

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Fulton County Medical Examiner

430 Pryor Street SW
Atlanta, Georgia 30312
Phone: 404-613-4400
Fax: 404-613-2463
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