WEEK ONE: Establishing the foundation

Yajaira G -

Hi everyone!

This week I have mastered the understanding behind establishing the foundation. I entered the office on Monday to observe the preparation that occurs before the exams begin. Then I observed the exams; there were 5 cases for the day. Afterwards, I went into the conference room to learn the definitions and the requirements that are in place for a body to be brought into the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Let’s begin with… how would you define the cause of death? The cause of death is the initial injury or illness that started a chain of events that ultimately led to the death. This is different from the manner of death. The manner of death can be seen as a classification such as a suicide, homicide, accident, undetermined, or natural cause. These definitions are important when it comes to determining the reasons.

Let me put these definitions into scenarios for better understanding. For example: If a person is stabbed and 911 is called but they don’t arrive until after the person bleeds out, the cause of death would be the stabbing since it led to the person bleeding out. Another example is, let’s say a healthy person is involved in a car accident in 2020 and injures their head.  After the incident, the person begins experiencing seizures. Later in 2024, the person passes away from a fatal seizure. The cause of death would be the head injury from the incident in 2020. You may ask: Why? This is because if it weren’t for the head injury in 2020, they would have not experienced seizures which would have not provoked the fatal seizure. This was very interesting to me since it wasn’t very clear to me in the beginning why we would determine the cause of death by looking years before the date of the death.

Does everyone who passes away go to the Medical Examiner? The answer is no. In Arizona, there is ARS 11-593 which is like a checklist in a way. In this statute, it states when a death should be reported to the Medical Examiner. According to ARS 11-593, if the person falls into one of the specifications listed, they would be taken to the Medical Examiner. One question I still have is: Are there different requirements in other states?

This week was filled with strengthening my knowledge!

Pinal County Medical Examiner's Office

Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office

Check out the link attached to find out the specifications that a person may fall into.


Next week I will go in-depth into the exam process!


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    Fascinating stuff, I'm learning things already. I'm excited to see how your next few visits at the ME office go. Keep up the good work and let me know if you have any questions.
    I love that you gave us examples to better understand the definitions!! What are the preparations that go on before the exams begin? Can the manner of death fall into two classifications at once... such as both an accident and a homicide?
    Sofia R
    If there is a grey area in the statutes, what would fall under it? Is the automatic response to take the person into the ME office anyways?
    Hi Yajaira! Woah! I didn't know that there could be different definitions for describing a death, I am intrigued with what else you will find in the upcoming week! :)
    Toby Chang
    Interesting stuff this week - what type of checklist is outlined under ARS 11-593? Under what circumstances would they go to the Medical Examiner?
    Wow, that's very cool about the different definitions for death. When a person comes in does their medical history also come in or do you have to ask around yourself? Also, if the person has a long medical record, how would you be able to determine an exact cause of death?
    Hi Lena! A few of the preparations that occur before exams are photographing the body after the body bag seal is broken, taking X-rays of the decedent, listing the color and type of the decedent's clothing, any jewelry, hair, and eye color. This is to keep records of what the body is like when they receive it. Manner of death will not fall into two classifications instead they would classify it as undetermined. But for example, let's say that they get new information about the body that can make it fall into just one of the classifications they can later revise it.
    Hi Toby! The ARS 11-592 statute lists out the specifications at which a body should be taken into the Medical Examiner's office. Here are a few circumstances: death resulting from violence, death of a person in a custodial agency, unexpected death of a child or infant, death occurring in a suspicious, or unusual manner, death occurring as a result of a surgical procedure, death suspected to be caused by a undiagnosed disease that threatens public safety, and death of a person who has not been under a heath care provider in the last 18 months.

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