What happens to the body in Colorado after someone dies?

Posted by: Dec 05, 2014By Brian Stutheit

Where death is by natural causes, and the person was under medical care, the family can make arrangements for a mortuary to take the person into its care right away.  Colorado does not license individual morticians, but “funeral establishments” must be registered with the Department of Regulatory Agencies and it is unlawful to sell funeral goods and services to the public or act as a mortuary science practitioner unless he or she practices at a registered funeral establishment.

The Social Security program pays a lump sum amount (called the “Death Benefit”) of $255 to help pay for funeral or burial costs for anyone who had qualified for Social Security benefits. The money is paid to the surviving spouse (if he or she lived in the same home as the deceased person), or to the child of the deceased person if there is no surviving spouse. If the decedent leaves no spouse or child, this benefit is not paid.  Medicaid does not pay for funerals, cremations, or burials. Typically, the mortuary tells Social Security that someone has died.

The coroner’s office must be notified of every death that meets any of the following criteria:

death occurred without a physician in attendance

the attending physician has not evaluated the decedent within 30 days before the death

the attending physician is unable or unwilling to certify the cause of death

The coroner must also be notified when death occurs:

  • Within 24 hours of a hospital admission
  • In an emergency room or operating room, or immediately following a medical procedure
  • From external violence
  • Due to an unexplained cause
  • From a thermal, chemical, or radiation injury
  • From a disease that may be hazardous or contagious, or which may constitute a threat to public health
  • While the decedent is in the custody of law enforcement officials or incarcerated in a public institution
  • Suddenly and happened to a person who was in good health
  • From an industrial accident

According to the Jefferson County Coroner, the manner and cause of death can often be determined by an external examination of the body, reviews of past medical records, interviews with physicians and family members and laboratory tests. Most cases reported to the coroner do not result in an autopsy.

Where the coroner has been notified, the body cannot be buried or cremated without permission from the coroner.  A death certificate cannot issue until the coroner certifies cause of death. Family members may obtain results of the coroner’s study directly from the coroner.  The coroner does not share its study with the mortuary.