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390.11 Investigations and inquests.

Subdivision 1. Deaths requiring inquests and investigations. Except as provided in subdivision 1a, the coroner shall investigate and may conduct inquests in all human deaths of the following types:

(1) violent deaths, whether apparently homicidal, suicidal, or accidental, including but not limited to deaths due to thermal, chemical, electrical, or radiational injury, and deaths due to criminal abortion, whether apparently self induced or not;

(2) deaths under unusual or mysterious circumstances;

(3) deaths of persons whose bodies are to be cremated, dissected, buried at sea, or otherwise disposed of so that the bodies will later be unavailable for examination; and

(4) deaths of inmates of public institutions who are not hospitalized for organic disease and whose deaths are not of any type referred to in clause (1) or (2).

Subd. 1a. Commissioner of corrections; investigation of deaths. The commissioner of corrections may require that all Department of Corrections incarcerated deaths be reviewed by an independent, contracted, board-certified forensic pathologist.

Subd. 2. Violent or mysterious deaths; autopsies. The coroner may conduct an autopsy in the case of any human death referred to in subdivision 1, clause (1) or (2), when the coroner judges that the public interest requires an autopsy, except that an autopsy must be conducted in all unattended inmate deaths that occur in a state correctional facility.

Subd. 2a. Deaths caused by fire; autopsies. The coroner shall conduct an autopsy in the case of any human death reported to the coroner by the state fire marshal or a chief officer under section 299F.04, subdivision 5, and apparently caused by fire.

Subd. 3. Other deaths; autopsies; exhumation; consent. The coroner may conduct an autopsy in the case of any human death referred to in subdivision 1, clause (3) or (4), or may exhume any human body and perform an autopsy on it in the case of any human death referred to in subdivision 1 when the coroner judges that the public interest requires an autopsy. No autopsy shall be conducted unless the surviving spouse, or next of kin if there is no surviving spouse, consents to it, or the district court of the county where the body is located or buried, upon notice as the court directs, enters an order authorizing an autopsy or an exhumation and autopsy. Application for an order may be made by the coroner or by the county attorney of the county where the body is located or buried, upon a showing that the court deems appropriate.

Subd. 4. Assistance of medical specialists. If during an investigation the coroner believes the assistance of pathologists, toxicologists, deputy coroners, laboratory technicians, or other medical experts is necessary to determine the cause of death, the coroner shall obtain their assistance.

Subd. 5. Inquest. The record and report of the inquest proceedings may not be used in evidence in any civil action arising out of the death for which an inquest was ordered. Before an inquest is held, the coroner shall notify the county attorney to appear and examine witnesses at the inquest.

Subd. 6. Records. The coroner shall keep properly indexed records giving the name, if known, of every person whose death is investigated, the place where the body was found, the date, cause, and manner of death, and all other relevant information concerning the death.

Subd. 7. Reports. (a) Deaths of the types described in this section must be promptly reported for investigation to the coroner by the law enforcement officer, attending physician, mortician, person in charge of the public institutions referred to in subdivision 1, or other person with knowledge of the death.

(b) For the purposes of this section, health-related records or data on a decedent, except health data defined in section 13.3805, subdivision 1, whose death is being investigated under this section, whether the records or data are recorded or unrecorded, including but not limited to those concerning medical, surgical, psychiatric, psychological, or any other consultation, diagnosis, or treatment, including medical imaging, shall be made promptly available to the coroner, upon the coroner's written request, by a person having custody of, possession of, access to, or knowledge of the records or data. The coroner shall pay the reasonable costs of copies of records or data provided to the coroner under this section. Data collected or created pursuant to this subdivision relating to any psychiatric, psychological, or mental health consultation with, diagnosis of, or treatment of the decedent whose death is being investigated shall remain confidential or protected nonpublic data, except that the coroner's report may contain a summary of such data.

Subd. 8. Coroner in charge of body. Upon notification of a death subject to this section, the coroner or deputy shall proceed to the body, take charge of it, and, when necessary, order that there be no interference with the body or the scene of death.

Subd. 9. Criminal act report. On coming to believe that the death may have resulted from a criminal act, the coroner or deputy shall deliver a signed copy of the report of investigation or inquest to the county attorney.

Subd. 10. Sudden infant death. If a child under the age of two years dies suddenly and unexpectedly under circumstances indicating that the death may have been caused by sudden infant death syndrome, the coroner, medical examiner, or personal physician shall notify the child's parents or guardian that an autopsy is essential to establish the cause of death as sudden infant death syndrome. If an autopsy reveals that sudden infant death syndrome is the cause of death, that fact must be stated in the autopsy report. The parents or guardian of the child shall be promptly notified of the cause of death and of the availability of counseling services.

Subd. 11. Autopsy fees. The coroner may charge a reasonable fee to a person requesting an autopsy if the autopsy would not otherwise be conducted under subdivision 1, 2, or 3.

Subd. 12. Authorized removal of the brain. If the coroner is informed by a physician or pathologist that a dead person is suspected of having had Alzheimer's disease, the coroner shall authorize the removal of the brain of the dead person for the purposes of sections 145.131 and 145.132.

HIST: (946) RL s 587; 1945 c 529 s 1; 1965 c 761 s 2; 1984 c 637 s 3; 1985 c 265 art 7 s 1; 1Sp1985 c 9 art 2 s 90,91; 1986 c 444; 1991 c 319 s 19; 1993 c 326 art 5 s 4; 1998 c 367 art 9 s 16; 1999 c 227 s 22; 2001 c 210 s 18,19

Official Publication of the State of Minnesota
Revisor of Statutes