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Justice Scalia's death brings up question of death declaration

United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's death was quickly picked up by just about every news outlet in the country. Justice Scalia dutifully served his country, offering his opinion on hundreds of U.S. Supreme Court decisions. According to reports, he was found deceased in a cabin in Texas and died of natural causes. However, the process for declaring death is different in Texas than it is in Pennsylvania, and this has raised some questions as to the method in which Scalia's death was determined.

Justice Scalia was declared dead of natural causes at 1:52 p.m. in West Texas by a county judge, without medical expertise, who made her decision over the telephone. Because the coroner's responsibilities are governed by state law, Texas has a different procedure than that for deaths occurring in the state of Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, the coroner's office must be involved in declaring a person's death, unless the death occurs in a medical facility. Typically, that means that the coroner will visit the scene in-person.

Pennsylvania's way of declaring death seems to be more thorough and precise than the method in Texas. Because this law appears to be ironclad here, it could affect a wrongful death proceeding if the procedure for death declaration is not followed exactly. It is important to investigate a loved one's death from top to bottom if at all concerned about the manner in which the loved one passed. This includes the procedure by which a person is declared legally deceased.

Whatever the circumstances for a loved one's unexpected death, family member may want to consider the possibility that there is more than initially meets the eye. With all the advances in science and accident recreation, there can be many ways to investigate an incident to determine how a loved one died.

If a third party is even partially responsible for a loved one's untimely death it could change everything for the future of that person's family and the legal options that may be available to them.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Scalia's death would be investigated further in Pa.," Dan Majors, Feb. 18, 2016

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