Introduction to Medical Examiner's Office
The Office of the Medical Examiner of the State of Oklahoma has the sole responsibility for investigating sudden, violent, unexpected and suspicious deaths. Information gained from these medicolegal investigations is frequently required in the form of evidence and expert testimony in both criminal and civil legal proceedings. When a death occurs on the job or appears to be work-related, the results of the medicolegal investigation are of direct benefit to the family in order that insurance claims may be appropriately settled. These examinations also help identify potentially unsafe consumer products. The public health function of the medical examiners office is further apparent in the investigation of cases in which poisons, hazardous work environments or infectious agents are implicated. The identification of such dangerous elements allows the prompt implementation of treatment and preventative measures through coordination with Oklahoma's public health agencies and OSHA.
History of the Chief Medical Examiner's Office
The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's system came into being in 1961. It was without funding until 1967. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the State of Oklahoma operates under the control of the Board of Medicolegal Investigations through the provisions of the Oklahoma Statutes. The office is directed by the Chief Medical Examiner who is a licensed physician, trained and certified in forensic pathology, the branch of medicine concerned with the investigation of sudden, unexpected, violent or suspicious death. The office provides toxicological and pathological services to aid in the investigation of death defined by law as being subject to public inquiry.
The law requires that all human deaths of the types listed below must be reported to the medical examiner and investigated.
- Violent deaths, whether apparently homicidal, suicidal or accidental including but not limited to deaths due to thermal, chemical, electrical or radiational injury and deaths due to criminal abortions, whether self-induced or not.
- Deaths under suspicious, unusual or unnatural means.
- Deaths related to disease which might constitute a threat to public health.
- Deaths unattended by a licensed medical or osteopathic physician for fatal or potentially fatal illness.
- Deaths of persons after unexplained coma.
- Deaths that are medically unexpected and that occur during a therapeutic procedure.
- Deaths of any inmate occurring in any place of penal incarceration.
- Deaths of persons whose bodies are to be cremated, buried at sea, transported out of state or otherwise made ultimately unavailable for pathological study.