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What Does a Medical Examiner Do?


If you’re curious about the responsibilities and role of a medical examiner, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll delve into the important tasks carried out by a medical examiner, how they contribute to the justice system, and the necessary qualifications to become one.

Defining the Medical Examiner:

A medical examiner is a highly trained and qualified forensic pathologist who investigates deaths that fall under their jurisdiction. Unlike a regular doctor who focuses on living patients, the medical examiner’s primary role is to determine the cause and manner of death in cases that require investigation.

Investigating Cause of Death:

One of the main tasks of a medical examiner is to perform autopsies to establish the cause of death. By conducting thorough examinations and analyzing medical records, the medical examiner can determine if the death was due to natural causes, accidental circumstances, suicide, or homicide. This process is crucial in aiding law enforcement agencies in their investigations and ensuring justice is served.

Determining Manner of Death:

In addition to establishing the cause of death, a medical examiner is responsible for determining the manner of death. The manner of death refers to the circumstances surrounding the cause of death and can be classified as natural, accidental, suicidal, homicidal, or undetermined. This determination is essential in understanding the circumstances leading to the death and ensuring accurate record-keeping.

Interacting with Law Enforcement Agencies:

Medical examiners often work closely with law enforcement agencies, providing vital information and expert opinions that assist in criminal investigations. Because of their extensive knowledge in forensic pathology, medical examiners serve as valuable assets in solving crimes and ensuring justice.

Identifying Victims:

Medical examiners also play a crucial role in identifying victims in cases where the identity is unknown. By utilizing their expertise, including dental and DNA analysis, they can help establish the identity of a deceased individual. This information is vital for notifying relatives, conducting investigations, and ultimately closing cases.

Collaborating with Forensic Scientists:

Medical examiners frequently collaborate with forensic scientists to gather additional evidence during autopsies. This collaboration ensures a comprehensive understanding of the circumstances surrounding a death, including the presence of toxins, drugs, or other substances in the deceased’s body. The careful analysis of this evidence can provide valuable insights into the cause and manner of death.

Educational Requirements:

To become a medical examiner, one must complete extensive education and training. This typically includes obtaining a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree, followed by specialized training in forensic pathology. Medical examiners must also obtain board certification in forensic pathology through the American Board of Pathology. Additionally, continuing education and staying up-to-date with the latest scientific advancements is essential in this field.

Skills and Qualities:

Apart from the necessary educational requirements, medical examiners must possess a unique set of skills and qualities. Excellent analytical skills, attention to detail, and the ability to work under pressure are all essential in this profession. Strong communication and report-writing skills are vital for effectively conveying findings to law enforcement agencies, lawyers, and courtrooms.


The role of a medical examiner is indispensable in investigations involving suspicious or unexplained deaths. Their expertise, dedication, and commitment to justice are vital in ensuring accurate determinations of cause and manner of death. By collaborating with law enforcement agencies, forensic scientists, and utilizing their extensive knowledge in forensic pathology, medical examiners contribute significantly to the justice system. It’s thanks to their efforts that we can shed light on tragic events and bring closure to affected families.

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