Taking the mystery out of the Medical Examiner's Office - facts you may not know

You hear about the medical examiner on the news, and you might be familiar with some of the fictionalized characters like Quincy, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, or Dr. Maura Isles. But for most people, what goes on inside the Medical Examiner’s office remains a mystery.

Here are some quick facts:

  • Hillsborough County uses medical examiners (ME) versus coroners. Unlike coroners who are elected officials and may not have a background in medical or forensic science, the County’s MEs are licensed doctors who are board certified in forensic pathology.
  • By state law, here are some of the situations when the medical examiner must determine the cause of death:
    • criminal violence, accident, suicide, or poison
    • unattended by a practicing physician or other recognized practitioner
    • under suspicious or unusual circumstances
    • suddenly, when in apparent good health
  • Medical Examiners have to review information on the death and approve before a body is cremated, buried at sea, donated to science, or removed from Florida
  • Dozens of unidentified remains, some dating back to 1973, are still stored at the Medical Examiner’s Office, but advances in forensic genetic genealogy have led to solving cases
  • Contrary to Hollywood's portrayal, MEs typically use photographs for legal identification rather than viewing the body directly

Image Caption: Autopsy Technician, Jay Cappoli at an exhumation to collect DNA and run isotope testing on unidentified remains
Last Modified: 4/8/2024, 8:24:20 PM

Was this page helpful?