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Utah Office of the Medical Examiner

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Investigations Frequently Asked Questions

Why are investigations necessary?
Investigations allow a collection of facts surrounding all unnatural or unexplained deaths; these facts aid the medical examiner to determine the cause and manner of the death. Investigations also aid in the determination of possible environmental hazards, job safety violations, consumer product dangers and public health threats.

What happens during an investigation?
The investigation will start at the location of the death. The police or hospital will report the death to the Office of the Medical Examiner. The investigator will talk to family members, witnesses and others, work with the police in identifying features of the death, obtain medical histories and records, and photograph the scene of the death. The investigator will authorize the removal of the body to a location where an examination will be conducted.

How are the bodies identified?
Often identification has taken place at the scene of the death. In cases where individuals remain unidentified, or where identification is difficult due to the condition of the body, fingerprints, dental records, body X-rays, and DNA are used, in addition to the autopsy evidence, to identify a person.

Can a medical investigator case still be an organ or tissue donor?
Yes. Once family members have expressed interest, the Lions Eye Bank and Intermountain Donor Services coordinators work closely with the Medical Examiner and investigator, and will review the appropriateness of the organ and tissue procurement before allowing family members to formally consent to the donation. Procedures to obtain organs are done within hospital operating rooms while procedures to obtain tissues may be done at the Office of the Medical Examiner. Being the victim of a homicide or other traumatic death does not preclude being a donor. All cases for organ and tissue donation require family consent.

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