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Strengthening the Medical Examiner-Coroner System Program

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The medicolegal death investigation (MDI) workforce is experiencing a national shortage of practicing board-certified forensic pathologists. Furthermore, there is variability in the practice of death investigation across the United States, resulting in an inconsistent provision of MDI services. This program was initiated in 2017 to help address MDI workforce needs to increase the number of practicing board-certified forensic pathologists, as well as support medical examiner and coroner (ME/C) offices’ needs to implement and follow quality standards and performance criteria in an effort to provide consistent and equitable application of death investigation services.

The goals of this program are to:

  1. Increase the supply of qualified forensic pathology practitioners.
  2. Strengthen the quality and consistency of ME/C services.

This program is one of the forensic science programs that moved from the National Institute of Justice to the Bureau of Justice Assistance in FY 2020.

Why This Matters

This program not only helps address the extreme shortage of board-certified forensic pathologists in the United States as underscored in the 2019 Report to Congress: Needs Assessment of Forensic Laboratories and Medical Examiner/Coroner Offices on strengthening forensic science in the United States, but it also provides ME/C offices with the resources to become accredited and maintain that accreditation. Accreditation provides an independent measure of quality assurance by assessing that an office maintains written policies and procedures and adequate staff, equipment, training, and suitable physical facilities to produce a forensically documented, accurate, and credible death investigation product. Further, this program helps to address the increasing workloads experienced at ME/C offices, which have been exacerbated by the opioid epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Date Modified: June 17, 2022
Date Created: September 9, 2020