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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.
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.
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.
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. 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. They are typically medical officers that perform autopsy procedures on the human body after death.
In popular culture
Medical examiners are common characters in many crime shows, especially American shows. The following characters are well known medical examiners.
- Dr. Henry Morgan in Forever.
- Dr. Dana Scully in the The X-Files.
- Dr. Sid Hammerback, in the CSI: NY, is the chief medical examiner.
- Dr. Alexx Woods, in CSI: Miami.
- Dr. Albert "Al" Robbins, in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, is the chief medical examiner.
- Dr. Max Bergman, in Hawaii Five-0, is the chief medical examiner who works closely with the Governor of Hawaii's task force.
- Dr. R. Quincy, in Quincy, M.E., is the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner (but is stated to be the fictitious Los Angeles City Medical Examiner in the program.)
- Dr. Maura Isles, in Rizzoli and Isles, is the chief medical examiner.
- Dr. Melinda Warner, in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
- Dr. Megan Hunt, in Body of Proof.
- Dr. Lanie Parish and Dr. Sidney Perlmutter in Castle.
- Dr. Betty Rogers in Motive, is the chief medical examiner.
- Dr. Camille "Cam" Saroyan in Bones (TV Series).
- Dr. Joanne Webster in Unforgettable.
- Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard in NCIS (TV series), is the chief medical examiner.
- Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh in Crossing Jordan.
- "Coroner vs. medical examiner". Visible Proofs. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
- Coroners and Medical Examiners: A Comparison of Options Offered by Both Systems in Wisconsin Jenifer Keach, Rock (WI) County Coroner, April 6, 2010
- National Academy of Sciences, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, (2009), p 241-253.