United States in medical examiner offices, there is a great need for new knowledge that will filter down to the autopsy pathologist and for opportunities for practicing forensic pathologists to identify problems that need basic research.

COMMON METHODS OF SAMPLE AND DATA COLLECTION

State statute determines the sample or collection of cases that ME/Cs investigate and examine. The minimal data collected on each case is demographic and is entered on the certificate of death by the state division of vital records and death statistics, which also maintains the data. The data are reported nationally each year to the National Center for Health Statistics. ME/C offices with databases may keep records pertaining to their particular jurisdiction and collect additional data on specific diagnoses, or classes, of death. They collect useful death data through child fatality review teams, adult fatality review teams, surveillance programs for family and intimate partner violence, and the National Violent Death Review System.59 None of these data collection projects is federally mandated, and for small systems there is no perceived benefit. ME/C reports are available to next of kin and others as provided by statute. ME/C investigations recognize product and equipment failures leading to death and report them to appropriate agencies. Before 2005, when funding was withdrawn, CDC maintained the Medical Examiner and Coroner Information Sharing Program (MECISP) to receive reports of product-associated deaths, which allowed early recognition of problem products.60 Originally, MECISP was established to obtain data from all deaths investigated by ME/Cs and to share such information with relevant agencies. The major goals of MECISP were to improve medicolegal death investigation and to facilitate the sharing of death investigation information.61 Many agencies depend on ME/C investigations and autopsies to complete their work, such as the Occupational Health and

59

National Violent Death Reporting System. Available at www.cdc.gov/ncipc/profiles/nvdrs/default.htm.

60

Centers for Disease Control and Injury Prevention Medical Examiner Coroner Information Sharing Project. Available at www.cdc.gov/ncphi/disse/nndss/contact.htm#mecisp.

61

MECISP was established in 1986 by CDC with goals that included improving the quality of death investigation in the United States mainly by achieving uniformity and improving the quality of information obtained during the investigation of deaths by ME/Cs. The program was active and productive and very well received by medical examiners. It constituted the major interface between the public health and the ME/C systems. Approximately 10 years ago, CDC went through a period of internal reorganization and administratively began decreasing the budget for MECISP. MECISP was moved from the CDC National Center for Environmental Health to the CDC Epidemiology Program Office. The budget was eliminated in 2004, despite the efforts of NAME. R. Hanzlick. 2006. Medical examiners, coroners, and public health. Archives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine 130:1247-1282.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement