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.
"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, who also serves as chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, offered sponsor testimony on the legislation Wednesday during one of the few committee hearings scheduled over lawmakers' pre-primary spring recess.
HB 482 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 current state law but not required.
The legislation also would require newly elected or appointed 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.
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.