Frequently Asked Questions for the Coroner's Office
What's the difference?
Coroner, Medical Examiner or Forensic Pathologist?
- A Coroner is an elected official.
- Coroner works in “Coroner states”.
- Each county in Colorado has their own elected Coroner and essentially their own death investigation system.
- A Coroner can essentially be anyone since to run for office one only has to be
- at least 18 years of age,
- not a felon and
- registered to vote in the county.
- Citizens of Mesa County should demand their Coroner at least bring some type of medical knowledge and experience to the position.
- A Medical Examiner is by definition a physician.
- Medical Examiner works in "Medical Examiner" states.
- Medical examiner is the one that oversees the death investigation system.
- Forensic pathologists in these states are often referred to as “Medical Examiners”.
- Physician who after graduating medical school becomes a Forensic Pathologist.
- Enters and completes specialized training in general pathology.
- Completes a forensic pathology fellowship.
- Performs the autopsies.
- In Colorado, if the Coroner is not a forensic pathologist, the Coroner must contract with a forensic pathologist to perform their autopsy examinations.
What happens after the Mesa County Coroner’s Office takes custody of a body?
- The Mesa County Coroner’s Office is responsible for aiding the family in the final disposition of the body.
- The Coroner’s Office does not recommend funeral homes.
- There are several local funeral home establishments in Mesa County the family can choose from.
- The body is typically released to the funeral home of the family’s choosing.
- After the autopsy is completed.
- If an autopsy is not performed, after completion of interviews and medical record review.
- It is important the Mesa County Coroner’s Office ensure each body is treated with respect and dignity and their final resting place is known.
What are Scene Investigators?
- Medicolegal death investigators, or sometimes referred to as scene investigators, are those individuals who have been trained to respond to the scene and conduct a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding a death.
- Ideally these investigators would bring some type of medical experience and/or law enforcement experience to their jobs.
- The Mesa County Coroner’s Office should ensure their investigators are highly trained and experienced individuals.
- The Office should also require their investigators be certified through the national organization American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators either upon hire or shortly after they are hired.
- Not every death reported to the Mesa County Coroner’s Office requires the investigator to respond to the scene to do an investigation.
- Some deaths, particularly those in hospitals, require only an investigation done strictly by phone interviews and medical record review.
- The medicolegal death investigator plays a very important role in the death investigation.
- The information they gather can be invaluable to the forensic pathologist and/or Coroner and therefore it is very important the investigators are properly trained and comfortable with their investigative skills.