The Coroner's Jurisdiction
The coroner's jurisdiction is determined by CRS 30-10-606 (1), which states: The coroner shall immediately notify the district attorney, proceed to view the body, and make all proper inquiry respecting the cause and manner of death of any person in his jurisdiction who has died under any of the following circumstances:
From external violence, unexplained cause, or under suspicious circumstances;
Comment: "Unexplained cause" seems to permit some flexibility of interpretation. A patient who expires suddenly under innocent circumstances and has along-standing history of heart disease has probably not died of "unexplained cause". "Suspicious circumstances" has specifically been defined by some courts as meaning "an inference of foul play". This should not be used capriciously to justify a coroner's investigation and an autopsy.
Where no physician is in attendance, or where, though in attendance, the physician is unable to certify the death;
Comment: "unable" is not the same as "unwilling". If the reason for coroner jurisdiction is unclear, direct conversation with the attending physician should be undertaken to clarify the situation.
From thermal, chemical, or radiation injury;
Comment: "Chemical" includes drugs. Delayed deaths from complications of drug use or abuse must be reported to the coroner.
From criminal abortion, including any situation where such abortion may have been self-induced;
Comment: In Colorado, "criminal abortion" is defined as "to end or cause to be ended the pregnancy of a woman by any means other than justified medical termination of birth."
From a disease which may be hazardous or contagious or which may constitute a threat to the health of the general public;
Comment: This is usually understood to mean undiagnosed, but perhaps suspected cases of infectious disease which may endanger a family, the community,intimate contacts, or attending medical personnel, e.g. undiagnosed AIDS, tuberculosis, meningococcemia, viral encephalitis, etc.
While in the custody of law enforcement officials or while incarcerated in a public institution;
Comment: Whether from obvious violence or "apparent" natural causes, these cases should be accepted for investigation. An independent investigation, including an autopsy, is in the public interest to preclude problems arising later from allegations of "abuse", "brutality", or "inadequate care".
When the death was sudden and happened to a person who was in good health;
Comment: "Good health" is a relative term which means different things to different people. The application of this portion of the statute requires discretion and communication with the deceased's family as well as with medical caregivers.
From an industrial accident.
Comment: Deaths resulting from workplace accident, workplace exposure, or any other job-related factors, i.e. workman's compensation cases, fall under the jurisdiction of the coroner. As a general rule, any death on the job will be investigated to ensure that the cause of death is adequately documented. The coroner's jurisdiction is generally understood to also include deaths from delayed complications of workplace exposure such as malignant mesothelioma resulting from asbestos exposure or late developing cancers resulting from workplace radiation exposure.