County Plays Lead Role In Mass Fatality Training
The week of August 27 marked the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Memories of that tragedy served as the background for training conducted August 27-31 as part of an ongoing effort to assure local officials are as well prepared as possible to respond to a potential mass-fatality event in the Greater Kansas City area.
The Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office (JCMEO) is dedicated to providing excellent death investigation services to Jackson County, the city of Kansas City, the surrounding counties of Platte, Cass and Clay, and other Missouri counties on a referral basis.
The JCMEO provides trained death investigators who will conduct scene investigations of homicides, suicides, accidental and natural deaths under our jurisdiction as determined by State Statutes. Board Certified forensic pathologists (Medical Examiners) will provide expert examinations of the deceased and conduct in-depth examinations utilizing the latest techniques in Forensic Pathology. The Medical Examiners will provide expert testimony in court and will remain neutral in their findings of determining manner and cause of death.
The JCMEO will continue to work closely with all Federal, State and local authorities and departments, which interact with the JCMEO. The JCMEO will also continue to update and prepare the office for mass fatalities and the possibility of a pandemic flu outbreak. The Chief Medical Examiner will continue to ensure that the JCMEO maintains NAME and ACGME accreditations and continues its high standards of dedicated forensic services, education and training.
Our goals include:
- Continued growth of the Medical Examiner’s Office and professional death investigation in Jackson County
- Provide education and training to the communities we support
- Provide Mass Fatality training and ensure community preparedness
- Work and train with other support agencies in the community (Law Enforcement, Courts, Health, Funeral Homes, and others) to provide outstanding death investigation
- Complete timely and quality investigative and autopsy reports
- Maintain National Association of Medical Examiner's (NAME) and Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accreditation
- Contribute to the health and safety of our community.
Who is a Medical Examiner?
A Medical Examiner is a medical doctor, usually a Forensic Pathologist. The Medical Examiner certifies the cause and manner of death, based on his/her expert opinion following an investigation and medical examination. This examination may include an autopsy and laboratory tests such as toxicology. The medical examiner also completes a report and creates a file for each decedent to document his/her findings in a lasting way. The Medical Examiner’s team consists of many other individuals, who assist in various ways with the investigation, administrative tasks, and autopsies; these individuals include Forensic Technicians, Investigators, Office Specialists, and Transcriptionists.
What is Forensic Pathology?
Forensic Pathology is a subspecialty of medicine that studies disease and injury and how they interface with legal issues. Forensic Pathologists conduct specialized forensic autopsies, provide expert testimony in courts of law, and are at the leading edge of surveillance for new patterns of disease and injury. The modern practice of Forensic Pathology contributes to the health and safety of our communities.
Who is a Forensic Pathologist?
A Forensic Pathologist is a physician who has received specialized training in Pathology, and further specialized training in Forensic Pathology. This training process lasts for up to an additional six years after graduation from medical school. After completion of the training period, a pathologist can sit for examinations offered by the American Board of Pathology. If a passing grade is achieved on the examination, the board confers certification in the tested areas to the pathologist. Each of the Jackson County Chief and Deputy Medical Examiners is board-certified in Forensic Pathology; newly hired Medical Examiners must become board-certified within two years of employment. Some of our medical staff are also board-certified in other areas in pathology, such as Clinical Pathology.
What is the difference between a Medical Examiner and a Coroner?
Medical Examiners and coroners are two different groups that meet a similar need in their communities. Coroners are part of an older system dating back many centuries, to a time when the job of the “Crowner” was to make sure a decedent’s taxes had been paid to the King. Today, the coroner’s main duty is to inquire into the cause and manner of a death, and to complete the death certificate. Coroners are usually elected laypersons who may or may not have medical training, depending on local statutes. Coroners contract with pathologists or forensic pathologists who provide autopsies and medical expertise to support the coroner’s investigations.
In contrast, the Medical Examiner system is a modern invention, and a streamlined system for medicolegal death investigation. Medical Examiners are almost always appointed to their positions rather than elected, are always physicians, and should have specialized training in forensic pathology. The Medical Examiner system is the trend of the future in death investigation in the United States, with over half of the states using this system.
In rare circumstances, the terminology may become confused, as a Forensic Pathologist may also be the elected Coroner.
The state of Missouri is a mixed system with the larger counties operate under Medical Examiner jurisdiction, while smaller counties, by statute, operate under coroner jurisdiction. Coroners from several rural Missouri counties contract with the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office for autopsy services when needed.