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FAQ's

What do Medical Examiners do?
Medical Examiners perform postmortem examinations on decedents. They review medical records and investigator reports. They examine glass slides of tissue samples under a microscope to identify diseases or anomalies. They review toxicology reports for evidence of chemical abnormalities or drug use or abuse. They dictate a report of findings as to the cause and manner of death. They meet with law enforcement officers, attorneys and family members to explain my findings. They appear in court to testify as an expert witness.

What education is required to qualify as a specialist in your work?
Post graduate education and training include four years of medical school, a five year residency in anatomic and clinical pathology, and a one year fellowship in forensic pathology. Following the residency you must pass Medical Boards in Anatomic Pathology and following the fellowship you need to pass Boards in Forensic Pathology. A medical doctor is also required to take a minimum of 20 hours of approved medical education every year to maintain their medical license.

Describe the kind of person it takes to be a Medical Examiner.
There are many different types of people in forensic pathology. In general, most doctors tend to be very objective, analytical and overachievers. Doctors that go into forensic pathology must like both the medical and the legal aspects of the work, they must be observant and like to put all the information and clues together to find the reason why a person died. This is true whether the person died of natural or accidental causes or a homicide.

What happens when you arrive at the scene of a crime?
An understanding of the scene of death is frequently critical to an accurate assessment of the cause and manner of death. Generally there are medical investigators who go to the scene and collect information to report back to the medical examiner. The steps taken at the scene depend on what type of case is being investigated. In the case of an infant who has died in his or her sleep, where the infant was found and the type of bedding around the infant are important factors. If it is suspected that the death is related to the dead person becoming too hot (hyperthermia), the temperature where they were found would be important.

Do Medical Examiners become immune to what they see?
No, but it is important to maintain a clinical detachment in order to do the job.

What is the difference between an ME and Coroner?
A medical examiner is always a medical doctor, usually a forensic pathologist who has received training in this specialty. A medical examiner certifies a death based on his or her expert opinion following an investigation and medical examination or an autopsy of the decedent. A medical examiner also completes a report to document and support his or her findings. Most medical examiners are appointed to their positions. A coroner is an elected official. Coroners are usually not required to be doctors, but the requirements depend on the laws governing the jurisdiction. Usually coroners come from law enforcement or funeral home backgrounds, but they may also be doctors who have run for the office of coroner. Coroners may hold public inquests to determine the cause and manner of death. They may have a doctor examine the body and report their findings at the inquest. Usually coroners have some law enforcement or legal powers, such as subpoena powers, but it varies depending on the laws in their jurisdiction. Medical examiners are usually not a part of law enforcement. Generally medical examiners are in agencies separate from law enforcement and the criminal justice system to preserve their objectivity. For example, in Maricopa County the Office of the Medical Examiner is under the County Health Department. This is not unusual. The Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner handles over 5,000 cases a year, but only about 10% are homicides. Arizona State statutes provide for a medical examiner system based in each county. There is no coroner in Arizona. Each state has different laws and each jurisdiction operates differently, but these are the basic differences between a medical examiner and a coroner.

Office Hours
Mon-Fri: 8am-5pm
except holidays 

Maricopa County Medical Examiner
Forensic Science Center
701 West Jefferson
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Ph: 602-506-3322 Fax: 602-506-1546
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