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The Daunting Task of Strengthening Medical Examiner and Coroner Investigations Across Hundreds of Jurisdictions

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2024

Currently between 5,000 and 8,000 death investigators working in more than 2,000 medical examiner and coroner offices in the United States struggle with chronic shortages in funding, a lack of forensic pathologists and technical staff, outdated equipment, and inconsistently implemented standards from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Federal efforts to improve the medical examiner and coroner systems, collectively referred to as the medicolegal death investigation system, have been ongoing for more than a decade. But these federal solutions have proven difficult to even identify because the medical examiner and coroner offices are local and, depending on the location, under the control of states, counties, or cities. Improving the system is made more challenging because many coroners are elected and may not be required to be medical professionals. Medical examiners, by contrast, are physicians who specialize in pathology and are typically appointed to direct the system or organization in their jurisdiction.

Date Published: April 1, 2024