Chief Medical Examiner
The Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) is a statewide system?that is charged with the investigation of sudden, unexpected and violent deaths. The office was established as a state agency in July 1968. It is located in Augusta on Hospital Street, behind the State Police Crime Laboratory. The staff consists of 2 forensic pathologists, including the current Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Margaret Greenwald, who was appointed by Governor Angus King in April of 1998, and the Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Marguerite DeWitt. The pathologists are supported by 7 staff members. Over 200 physicians volunteer to serve the state and are appointed by the Chief Medical Examiner to function in their local communities.
The OCME is dedicated to providing the citizens of Maine with comprehensive, scientific forensic investigation of deaths?that fall within the jurisdiction of the office. Jurisdiction is determined by state statute, Title 22,? Chapter 711, MEDICAL EXAMINER ACT. Approximately 2,000 deaths are reported to the OCME each year. After initial investigation, the office accepts jurisdiction in approximately 1,200 cases, providing complete death investigation and determining the cause and manner of death. When needed, autopsies are performed to assist in that determination.
Office of Chief Medical Examiner
37 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333
Phone: (207) 624-7180
FAX: (207) 624-7178
Frequently Asked Questions
- How may I obtain a Medical Examiner's report on a case which was certified by the office?
Medical Examiner cases, when complete are public records. You may request a copy of the Medical Examiner reports by calling or writing to the office. Please include the name of the decedent and the date of death. Please note that, except for the next of kin, there is a charge for the reports. All requests must be accompanied by a return envelope with $0.60 postage.
- I have been told that my relative needs an autopsy. What does this mean in terms of a death certificate. Will I have to delay the funeral?
Depending on the circumstances of your relative's death, the Medical Examiner, Attorney General or District Attorney may decide that an autopsy is necessary. The OCME performs autopsies Monday through Friday, and as necessary on the weekends. You and your family should choose a funeral home and let them know that there will be an autopsy. The funeral homes are very accustomed to working with the OCME. They will handle all the arrangements to make certain the funeral proceeds according to your plans. Once the autopsy is finished, usually by the day after your relative dies, the OCME will notify the funeral home. Even with an autopsy, most persons are able to have an open casket. Occasionally, due to injury or postmortem decomposition, the funeral home may advise against this option.
- I need to talk directly with the doctor who did the autopsy.
I need to talk directly with the doctor who did the autopsy. Please call the office at the number listed. The doctor will return your call as soon as he or she is available.
- I need a copy of the completed death certificate. What should I do?
Contact the Department of Human Services, Office of Vital Records at the following telephone number: 1-207-287-3181. Or go to the official web site: Vital Records.
- The death certificate I received indicates that the case is Pending. I need a Cause of Death for the insurance. What should I do?
Contact the office. A staff member will help you determine the best way to satisfy the insurance company. Sometimes a telephone call will allow them to process the case. If they need the final cause of death, it may take a few months for all the reports to be available and the case completed. If we have a formal request from the insurance company, we will send them the reports as soon as they are available.
- I am a student who is interested in becoming a Medical Examiner. Can I spend some time doing Job Shadowing? What kinds of courses should I take in school?
Unfortunately, the office does not offer job shadowing. However, for those students, 16 or older, it may be possible to arrange a tour during a time when there are no autopsies. As a committee chair person for the National Association of Medical Examiners, Dr. Greenwald is often asked about what kind of education is necessary before one can become a Medical Examiner. Here is her answer:
"First, I must presume that if you are asking about becoming a medical examiner, what you really mean is that you wish to become the expert who performs the autopsies in medico legal deaths. The actual specialist who does this is a Forensic Pathologist. Depending on what state or jurisdiction they work in, the forensic pathologist may be a medical examiner, a coroner or just the pathologist who performs the autopsies.
If you are interested in becoming a forensic pathologist, the first thing that you need to do is become a physician. Therefore, I would advise a pre-med course in college. You should consult with career counselors at your University for the best approach given your interests. You would need to get a Bachelor's Degree, an MD, then find an anatomic pathology residency and finally a forensic pathology fellowship. As you can see, becoming a forensic pathologist requires a long period of training. If you have not yet read the information on the NAME web site, please go to: Medical Detective . Another page of interest is the following: AAFS Colleges & Universities.
There are many fields in forensics and not all of them require an MD degree. You might wish to look at the following additional web sites for some other ideas: AAFS Career Brochure and Copyright © 1999 Young Forensic Scientists Forum / American Academy of Forensic Sciences . Another link which may be of assistance is below: Hamilton County General Government Medical Examiner Jobs and Job Descriptions.
Finally, if you do decide to continue your studies in medicine and maintain your interest in becoming a forensic pathologist throughout your first years of medicine, contact the medical examiner/coroner in the area closest to your home to see if they have a volunteer program which might allow you to observe the reality of being a medical examiner. Usually these programs are only available to medical students or pathology residents. If you decide to pursue DNA, criminology, or some other forensic field, you can often find internships in your local crime lab during your summer vacations. I wish you luck in your career. Let me know if I can be of further assistance."