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A medical examiner is a medically qualified government 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 is a government official who
- Investigates human organs like the stomach, liver, brain
- Determines cause of death
- Issues death certificates
- Maintains death records
- Responds to deaths in mass disasters
- Identifies unknown dead
- Other functions depending on local law
In some jurisdictions with English origins or history, 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 meaning of these terms, duties, and requirements to hold office vary widely between jurisdictions.
Qualifications for medical examiners in the U.S. 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
- Dr. Dana Scully is also a medical examiner in the TV series The X-Files.
- Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard, in the TV series NCIS, is the Medical Examiner.
- Dr. Sid Hammerback, in the CSI: NY, is the Chief Medical Examiner.
- Dr. Alexx Woods, in the CSI: Miami, is a Medical Examiner.
- Dr. Albert "Al" Robbins, in the 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.
- Dr. Maura Isles, in Rizzoli and Isles, is the Chief Medical examiner.
- Dr. Melinda Warner, in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, is a medical examiner in the NYPD.
- Dr. Megan Hunt, in Body of Proof, is the Medical Examiner.
- Dr. Lanie Parish is the medical examiner in the TV series Castle.
- Dr. Betty Rogers in Motive, is the Chief Medical Examiner.
- Dr. Camille "Cam" Saroyan in Bones (TV Series), is the Chief Medical Examiner and head of the Jeffersonian Institute's Forensic Division.
- 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.