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The Department of Pathology is staffed by 5 – 6 full time physicians who are Board Certified Forensic Pathologists (or have extensive experience) and 1 – 2 physicians that are training in forensic pathology (fellows). All of the physicians are appointed as Deputy Medical Examiner's and assist the Medical Examiner in his medical duties. The primary duty of the Deputy Medical Examiner is to perform autopsies to determine the cause and manner of death. Additional duties include testifying in court in both criminal and civil cases, teaching medical students, hospital pathology residents, and other groups, and occasional examination of death scenes.
Determination of cause and manner of death is an involved process that can take anywhere from a few days to months, depending on how complicated the case. Most bodies that come to the Medical Examiner’s Office do not require an autopsy. These bodies are examined externally only. Those cases that meet certain criteria are autopsied the same or next day. The autopsy
consists of three main components – gross examination of the body (looking at the body and organs with the naked eye), microscopic examination
(examining tissue biopsies under the microscope), and toxicological examination
(testing body fluids for prescription and over-the-counter medications as well as street drugs). To formulate the cause and manner of death, the pathologist will combine the findings of the autopsy with investigative information. Investigative information includes the Medical Examiner’s Investigator
report, scene photographs, medical records, police records, trace evidence findings, consultant’s findings, special test results, etc. The manner of death consists of five categories – natural, accidental, suicide, homicide, and undetermined.
The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office’s Deputy Medical Examiners work closely with families, police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and other county Medical Examiner's to provide accurate death certification.