Coroners may probe suspected suicides

By Marc Kovac | R-C Capital Bureau Published:

COLUMBUS -- County coroners would be required to investigate suspected suicides, under legislation being considered in the Ohio House.

Rep. Chris Redfern (D-Catawba Island) offered House Bill 482 following the accidental death of a man in his district that was initially ruled a suicide but later determined to have been caused by a faulty trigger mechanism on his firearm.

Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, offered sponsor testimony on the legislation Wednesday.

The bill would require coroners or deputy coroners to travel to the scenes of suspected suicides, take possession of dead bodies and, in certain circumstances, perform autopsies. Such tasks are permitted under state law but not required.

The legislation also would require new coroners to complete an hour of training in how to handle suicide investigations.

That would be part of the 16 hours of continuing education already required under state law.

"Neither the coroner nor the deputy attended to the body, the death scene, interviewed witnesses or examined all the evidence," Redfern told members of the House's health committee. "... Families should be provided with a clear set or as clear a set of facts as possible concerning the death of their loved one."

Redfern acknowledged the potential costs of the law change, with several hundred additional autopsies performed annually at a cost of about $2,000. The state averages about 1,400 suicides annually, with autopsies performed on about 900.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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