The scope of the opioid epidemic presents unprecedented challenges to the medical examiner and coroner community. This webinar will explore the intersection of the opioid epidemic with the work of America’s medical examiners and coroners.
The opioid epidemic in the US has resulted in historic numbers of drug-related fatalities. The Centers for Disease Control notes that more than six out of ten drug-related fatalities involve an opioid. Since 1999, the number of deaths involving opioids—including prescription opioids and heroin—quadrupled. Some 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Drug-related fatalities now exceed the peak numbers of other public health scourges such as HIV (1995), motor vehicle accidents (1972), and gun violence (1993).
Medical examiners and coroners (ME/C) are responsible for investigation and certification of all unnatural deaths in their jurisdictions, in accordance with state statute. Such unnatural deaths include apparent drug intoxications. Components of ME/C death investigations include assessment of the scene of death, review of medical records, coordination with law enforcement and first responders, performance of an autopsy, collection of appropriate specimens for toxicological analysis, interpretation of laboratory results, and death certification. This labor-intensive process requires both medicolegal death investigators and forensic pathologists (FPs).