Office Administrator: Mary Wallace
The responsibilities of the Luzerne County Coroner's Office are complex. By state law it is the responsibility of the office to inquire into and determine the circumstances, manner and cause of deaths which fall within its jurisdiction. These deaths include any suspected homicide, suicide, or accidental deaths. These also include any natural death were there either is no physician to sign a death certificate, or the physician is unwilling or legally prohibited from doing so. Additionally other certain causes of death are also mandated to be investigated by the coroner.
The manner and cause of death inquiries may require reviews of medical records, interviews with family members or witnesses, and post mortem examinations. The Coroner's Office will conduct autopsies, collect evidence, bodily fluids and tissues for toxicology testing and microscopic study. Upon completion of these tests the Coroner's Office will analyze the results to determine the cause of death. The cause of death is used to complete the decedent’s death certificate. Evidence collected during autopsies and at the scene of the death can be used for criminal prosecution as well as determining the cause of death. Coroner's Office is frequently called to court in order to testify as to the results of these examinations. The Coroner's Office is constantly on alert for deaths which may pose a threat to public health from communicable disease or through product liability.
The Coroner’s Office responsibilities also include the identification of decedents. Identification may be as simple as matching the decedent to a driver’s license or other identification documents. The identification process may need to utilize fingerprints, dental records, body x-rays or DNA testing. Identifying the decedent’s next of kin, notifying them of the death and securing the decedent’s personal property are additional responsibilities of the office. Under certain circumstances, the Coroner's Office is responsible for removal and transportation of the decedent to the county morgue. The Coroner's Office will also obtain information from family, friends and public safety personnel regarding the terminal episode. The Coroner's Office works with numerous medical and law enforcement agencies to understand how these people lost their lives, to seek justice and bring closure to families.