Moving Toward a More Uniform System: Recommendations for Minimum Standards of Medical Examiner Offices in Texas
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Research Purpose: Texas operates a two-tiered system for certification of deaths. Elected officials with no scientific background determine and certify cause of death for residents in the majority of Texas counties. The issues raised by this system include accusations of missed homicides, incomplete vital statistics, under utilized public health data, and an overall lack of transparency. The purpose of this research is to first, establish a set of recommended minimum standards for the creation of medical examiner offices in Texas counties with populations under 500,000, based on the literature. The standards established include Education, Facilities and Staffing, Technology, and Oversight. Proposed medical examiner standards are presented to Texas experts in the medical examiner field. Finally, incorporating stakeholder recommendations and feedback, a revised set of minimum medical examiner office standards for Texas counties with populations under 500,000, is presented.
Methodology: This research uses focused interviews to gather detailed input from experts in the field. 8 respondents interviewed include 3 currently serving medical examiners, 3 Justices of the Peace, 1 attorney and 1 medical examiner administrative assistant.
Results: Based on the feedback gathered, recommendations in the Education and Facilities categories were added. The Ethics standard was incorporated into minimum education recommendations.