A. Medical Terminology

B. Prescription Medicines

C. Photographs


In most jurisdictions, the body of a deceased individual and the death scene are the responsibilities of a medical examiner's (or coroner's) office and the local law enforcement agency. A medicolegal death investigator is a representative of the medical examiner or coroner and should be the most knowledgeable person about the cause and manner of death at the death scene. The death investigator should focus on the physical condition of the body at the scene. Scene information regarding injuries, trace evidence, identification, and estimation of time of death should be evaluated and recorded. This information is essential to the medical examiner or coroner in order that a proper determination of cause and manner of death can be made.

The importance of an investigation in any death cannot be over-emphasized. In many cases, the scene investigation is more important than the autopsy. A thorough and complete investigation commonly leads to the proper diagnosis of the cause and manner of death prior to an autopsy. The medical examiner and coroner cannot perform their duties without this vital information. Well-trained investigators are an integral part in any forensic jurisdiction. The importance of sound investigation will become more evident as the investigator uses this handbook.


I would like to thank Dr. John Townsend, Chairman of the Department of Pathology, University of Missouri, for allowing me to use departmental resources to complete this project. I am indebted to Kirstie Calcutt and Ardath Calvert for their help with the photographs. I would also like to thank Dr. Robert Calaluce who edited some of the material used in this handbook.

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