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In contrast, the Medical Examiner system is a modern invention, 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 complex, as a Forensic Pathologist may also be the elected Coroner.
In the state of Missouri, larger urban 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. Medical Examiner
The Jackson County Chief Medical Examiner and Deputy Medical Examiners are board-certified in Anatomic and Forensic Pathology. Some of our medical staff are also board-certified in other areas of pathology, such as Clinical Pathology.
Newly hired Medical Examiners must become board-certified within two years of employment.
The Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office will retain jurisdiction for those deaths that are medical examiner cases in Jackson and Cass counties. Death certificates will be issued from the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office for those deaths that are medical examiner cases, including deaths from injury or who die suddenly and unexpectedly while in apparent good health, suspicious deaths, or deaths when there is no doctor to sign the death certificate. Jackson County currently provides complete forensic services to Jackson and Cass Counties under contract for death investigations, autopsy and lab testing as well as court testimony when necessary. Over 20 other Missouri counties utilize the Medical Examiner’s Office on a referral basis. Autopsies services and other tests are performed to determine cause and manner of death for these counties on a fee for service basis. The death certificates are issued by the referral county coroner/medical examiner based upon the autopsy findings. Local authorities in the referral county will conduct their own scene investigations and share their information with the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Autopsies are performed to answer medicolegal questions that are deemed in the “public’s interest" or to address a question of law. However, we recognize that an individual's religious or personal beliefs may be contrary to the performance of an autopsy. In the event of a homicide or suspicious circumstances of death, the Medical Examiner WILL perform an autopsy. If the death is not a homicide, the Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office is open to discussion to try to accommodate the families wishes while still meeting our mission and fulfilling the legal obligation presented by an individual's death. If a family wishes for an autopsy not to be performed, they may request so by phone with the on-duty investigator at 816-881-6600.