Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is an independent State agency responsible for the investigation of sudden, unexpected, or violent deaths in the State of Connecticut.
The agency was first opened in 1970, and operates under the authority of Connecticut General Statutes 19a-400 et seq. The Office is under the control of the Commission on Medicolegal Investigations. The Commission is composed of nine members who are appointed by the Governor of the State of Connecticut. The Commissioners each represent various groups and include the following:
With the exception of the Ex Officio member, the Commissioners serve without pay. The Commission elects its own officers, appoints the Chief Medical Examiner sets the Chief Medical Examiner's term and salary, and promulgates regulations by which the Office runs (regulations undergo subsequent legislative review and approval). The Chief Medical Examiner serves as the agency head.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is the sole occupant of a 30,000 sq. ft. mortuary, laboratory and administrative facility located on the campus of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and Dentistry in Farmington, Connecticut.
The facility was opened in 1987 and since that time all autopsy, toxicology and administrative functions have occurred in this facility. Between its opening in 1970 and 1987, the office had temporary quarters in a variety of places and some of the laboratory and autopsy work was contracted to other agencies or hospitals.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has a staff of 5 physicians and 56 support staff. Medical staff consists of the Chief Medical Examiner, the Deputy Chief Medical Examiner and three Associate Medical Examiners. These positions require a valid license to practice medicine in the State of Connecticut and Board Certification in Anatomic and Forensic Pathology. In addition, the Chief Medical Examiner must have five years experience.
The Office also retains the services of approximately three assistant medical examiners distributed throughout the state. These are licensed physicians who function as initial investigators and initial contact for the office with local police, hospital and other authorities. The facility conducts death investigations and autopsy services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
By statute, certain types of deaths are reportable to the Medical Examiner's office. It is then the medical examiner's responsibility to determine whether or not jurisdiction should be assumed and what investigative functions need to be exercised in order to execute the statutory mandate.
Reportable cases include all violent deaths, including but not limited to, death from physical, chemical, thermal or electrical radiation injury, regardless of whether the injury was homicidal, suicidal or accidental in nature. This also includes all drug deaths related to poisoning, drug abuse or addiction, deaths related to criminal abortion, deaths that constitute a threat to the public health, diseases resulting from employment, and deaths occurring suddenly or unexpectedly not caused by readily recognizable disease and including all deaths on arrival of within 24 hours of admission to the hospital including stillborn infants, all deaths occurring outside of the hospital setting and all deaths under anesthesia in the operating room, recovering room or resulting from diagnostic or therapeutic procedures. In addition, all deaths in which the body is to be cremated are reported to the Medical Examiner's Office.
All homicide victims and gunshot victims are examined at the central facility. In addition, the vast majority of motor vehicle fatalities including drivers, passengers, pedestrians, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, overdoses, industrial accidents and sudden and otherwise unexplained death under the age of 45 and a variety of other types of cases are subject to autopsy examination. In addition, cases which come under the jurisdiction of the Office for the purpose of death certification and which do not normally require an autopsy will be examined by autopsy upon request of the next of kin.
As an independent state agency, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has statutory charge to run its own laboratory facilities, to keep and distribute its records and to maintain its own administration and facilities management.
As a separate agency, OCME is responsible not only for executing its mandate to investigate deaths but also all administrative functions including budgetary requests, all phases of facility management and personnel management including such statutorily mandated administrative functions as administration of union agreements, affirmative action, immunization and teaching that includes blood born disease.