Medical examiner

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search

GMC Savana Medical Examiner van

A medical examiner is a medically qualified officer whose duty is to investigate deaths and injuries that occur under unusual or suspicious circumstances, to perform post-mortem examinations, and in some jurisdictions to initiate inquests.[1]

Job roles

A medical examiner's duties may vary depending on location. Typically, a medical examiners duties may include:

  • investigating human organs like the stomach, liver, brain,
  • determining cause of death,
  • issuing death certificates,
  • maintaining death records,
  • responding to deaths in mass disasters,
  • identifying unknown dead, or
  • performing other functions depending on local law.

In some jurisdictions, a coroner performs these and other duties. Within the United States, there is a mixture of coroner and medical examiner systems, and in some states, dual systems. The requirements to hold office vary widely between jurisdictions.


United Kingdom

In the UK, formal medical training is required for medical examiners. Many employers also request training in pathology while others do not. In the UK, a medical examiner is always a medically trained professional, whereas a coroner is a judicial officer.

Pilot studies in Sheffield and 7 other areas, which involved medical examiners looking at more than 27,000 deaths since 2008, found 25% of hospital death certificates were inaccurate and 20% of causes of death were wrong. Suzy Lishman, president of the Royal College of Pathologists, said it was crucial there was "independent scrutiny of causes of death".[2]

United States

Qualifications for medical examiners in the US vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In Wisconsin, for example, some counties do not require individuals to have any special educational or medical training to hold this office.[3] In most jurisdictions, a medical examiner is required to have a medical degree, although in many this need not be in pathology. Other jurisdictions have stricter requirements, including additional education in pathology, law, and forensic pathology. Medical examiners are typically appointed officers.[4] They are typically medical officers that perform autopsy procedures on the human body.

In popular culture


Medical examiners are common characters in many crime shows, especially American shows. The following characters are well known medical examiners:

CSI franchise

Law & Order franchise

NCIS franchise

  • Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard in NCIS (TV series), is the chief medical examiner for NCIS Major Case Response Team.
  • Dr. Loretta Wade in NCIS: New Orleans is the Medical Examiner of Jefferson Parish.


  1. "Coroner vs. medical examiner". Visible Proofs. Retrieved 12 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Medical examiners help expose patient safety risks". Health Service Journal. 12 February 2015. Retrieved 10 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Coroners and Medical Examiners: A Comparison of Options Offered by Both Systems in Wisconsin Jenifer Keach, Rock (WI) County Coroner, April 6, 2010
  4. National Academy of Sciences, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, (2009), pp 241–253.

External links