What does a Medical Examiner do?

Medical Examiner in a simpler word they investigate deaths for any reason whether due to homicide, suicide, or accidental violence, and deaths of persons unattended by a physician, or who succumbed to a contagious disease.

Medical Examiners can manage a medicolegal death investigation office, perform death investigations, complete autopsies, interpret toxicology and other laboratory testing results, collect and document evidence, and provide expert testimony.

The role of a medical examiner differs from that of the non-physician coroner in that the medical examiner is expected to bring medical expertise to the evaluation of the medical history and physical examination of the deceased. The physician medical examiner usually is not required to be a specialist in death investigation or pathology and may practice any branch of medicine.

Most systems employing physicians as part-time medical examiners encourage them to take advantage of medical training for medical examiners to increase their level of medical expertise as applied to a death investigation. The National Association of Medical Examiners and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences are two organizations that offer specialized training. Twenty-three states have medical examiner systems, and 18 have mixed systems; that is, Medical examiner and coroner.

What is the Difference Between a Medical Examiner and a Coroner?

Medical Examiners and Coroners are distinct titles referring to individuals who complete somewhat similar or overlapping roles but have very different histories and current-day training and qualifications.

Coroners have existed for centuries, with the term originally referring to the “Crowner”, whose job was to ensure that upon death the appropriate taxes were paid to the King (Crown). Modern coroners inquire into the cause and manner of death and often complete the death certificate. Across the U.S., coroners are usually elected laypersons who may or may not have medical training, depending on local statutes. Coroners may also be appointed, again depending on statutes, and may also have roles such as law enforcement or prosecuting attorney. Coroners are frequently not pathologists, and therefore must obtain the services of a forensic pathologist, often by contract, for autopsies and medical expertise to support the coroner’s investigations.  In this region, the Sheriff and Sheriff’s deputies serve as coroners in the rural California and Nevada counties and refer cases for postmortem examinations at the Washoe County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office.  Our office serves 13 Nevada and 5 California counties. 

Medical Examiner systems, by contrast, usually do not include a Coroner.  Medical Examiners are generally not elected, but appointed to their positions, and are always physicians, usually forensic pathologists, who have specialized training in a death investigation.  Medical Examiners can manage a medicolegal death investigation office, perform death investigations, complete autopsies, interpret toxicology and other laboratory testing results, collect and document evidence, and provide expert testimony.  The Medical Examiner system, therefore, is considered by many to be a modern, streamlined approach to death investigation, and the likely future trend of death investigation in the U.S.  Over half of the U.S. population is currently served by Medical Examiner systems. 

Washoe County converted its Coroner system to a Medical Examiner system in 2007, by county ordinance.  Nevada Revised Statutes require that each county have a Coroner, but leave the details of the death investigation system to the counties to determine.  The Washoe County Chief Medical Examiner also holds the appointed title of Coroner; however, the office functions as a Medical Examiner office.

## What Does a Medical Examiner Do?

**Medical ‍examiners** (MEs) are physicians who specialize in determining the cause and manner of death ⁢in cases where the cause is not readily apparent.​ They perform autopsies, examine the body and death scene, and review medical records to gather evidence.

**Key Responsibilities:**

*⁤ Conduct thorough autopsies to determine the cause and manner of death, including natural, accidental, homicidal,⁢ suicidal, or undetermined.

* Collect and analyze evidence from the body, such as tissue samples, fluids, ⁤and trace elements.

* Examine the death scene and surroundings to gather potential clues.

* Review medical ​records and consult with other healthcare professionals ⁤to⁤ obtain relevant information about the deceased’s health history and circumstances.

* Prepare detailed reports summarizing the findings of the examination, including the cause and manner of death.

* Testify in court as expert witnesses to⁢ present their findings and answer questions related⁤ to the death​ investigation.

**Education and Training:**

MEs must complete medical school, a residency ​in forensic pathology, and obtain board certification. They must also undergo specialized training in⁣ death investigation ⁤and autopsy techniques.

**Roles in Legal Proceedings:**

MEs play a crucial role in ⁣the legal system by⁢ providing ‌unbiased​ and objective medical evidence in cases involving ⁢sudden ⁤or suspicious deaths. Their ⁤findings may assist law enforcement and legal authorities in determining culpability and issuing charges.

**Qualities of a Successful Medical Examiner:**

* Strong medical knowledge and analytical⁣ skills

* Attention to detail and ability to interpret complex medical‌ data

* Compassion and empathy for the deceased‌ and ‌their​ families

* ⁣Excellent communication and writing skills

* Ability to work effectively ‍with law enforcement and legal professionals


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