COLUMBUS – An Ohio House committee began hearings today on a proposal to improve
Ohio’s death certificate laws by increasing oversight and transparency.



The legislation, House Bill 146, sponsored by Rep. Larry Householder, was spurred by an
incident in which the Franklin County coroner changed the cause of death on the death certificate
of a woman who died after the car she was driving was struck by another vehicle. The change
blindsided the victim’s family and prosecutors, and led to a felony charge against the other driver
being dropped.



Householder, R-Glenford, told the House State and Local Government Committee that the
coroner’s pathologist originally determined that the victim died of blunt-force trauma and
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien charged the driver with felony vehicular manslaughter.
But earlier this year, in the middle of court proceedings against the driver, the victim’s family
received a new death certificate in the mail stating the victim had died from melanoma, a type of
cancer.



Neither the family nor the prosecutor was given an explanation for the change in the death
certificate. County Prosecutor O’Brien was forced to drop the felony vehicular manslaughter
charge and the driver walked away with only a misdemeanor conviction for driving under the
influence.



Householder’s bill would require coroners to get approval from a common pleas court judge in
order to change a death certificate. He said the bill isn’t about tying the hands of county coroners
– it’s about oversight and transparency.



“Crime victims and their loved ones deserve justice and those who commit crimes must be held
accountable,” Householder said. “We need to make sure our coroners, prosecutors and law
enforcement are on the same page.”



Householder also noted that death certificate changes can impact not only criminal proceedings
but a range of other issues, including insurance claims filed by a surviving spouse or next of kin.

 
 
 
  
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