Reporting Procedures for Statutorily
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Pronouncement of Death
The following points need to be observed when pronouncing a person dead
and when removing a corpse from the place of death for purposes of
Section 979.01, Wisconsin Stats., addresses the reporting of
deaths and the taking of specimens by the coroner or medical examiner.
If a physician is present or responds in
person to a summons to observe the condition of an individual who
appears to have expired, the date and time of death is the date and
time the physician actually made the pronouncement of death.
Only physicians, coroners, medical
examiners or deputy medical examiners may pronounce death.
physicianís assistant, paramedic or emergency medical technician may
not pronounce a person dead and may not be listed on the Notice of
Removal Form as a pronouncer of death.
A registered nurse or licensed practical
nurse may report observations that indicate an apparent death to a
physician by telephone.
The nurse should report to the physician immediately
upon observation of the apparent death. The physician may then
exercise professional judgement in pronouncing the individual dead.
should be no unnecessary delay in reporting to the physician. The
nurse should record the information given to the physician and the
physician's response in the personís medical record.
The date and
time of death that is recorded in the medical record must reflect the
date and time of the pronouncement of death by the physician, coroner,
deputy coroner, medical examiner or deputy medical examiner.
the same date and time of death that must be placed on the death
Section 69.01(6g), Stats., which takes effect on
January 1, 2003, defines "date of death" in accordance with
this current standard of practice. A death certificate requires the
"time of pronouncement" of death rather than an estimated
"time of death."
If the situation necessitates immediate
reporting to a coroner or medical examiner, that official may choose,
at his or her discretion, to make the pronouncement of death.
Staff of home health agencies, hospices and other licensed care
facilities need to contact the coroner or medical examiner in the
county where clients expire to obtain procedures for the legal
pronouncement of deaths that occur outside a nursing home or hospital.
If a coroner or medical examiner
determines that a case requires an actual scene investigation (e.g.,
when an incident such as a restraint death or suicide occurs at a
facility), it is important that no one inadvertently alters potential
evidence at the death scene.
The coroner or medical examiner will
determine if the body may be moved or removed, if the family or others
may enter the death scene, and what, if any, of the items at the death
scene should be preserved.
If death is not apparent and if
resuscitative measures are taken, it is understood that there will be
alteration of the death scene.
However, if signs of death are apparent
and it is obvious that resuscitative efforts will be futile, the death
scene must be preserved and the coroner or medical examiner must be
called immediately to initiate the death investigation.
Any medical device attached to or
introduced into the body should be left in its original position. The
coroner or medical examiner will need to document all of the medical
This information is important for the
pathologist who performs the autopsy and is especially important for
trauma cases, no matter how long the person has been in the facility.
Last Updated: March 23, 2011