NaNoWriMo: More Q&A with Dr. Reade Quinton, M.E.

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More indepth questions and answers with Medical Examiner Dr. Reade Quinton. The following information is great for first time or long-time writers. If you’re looking for a nugget of authenticity or just want to clear up some misconceptions, check out today’s Q&A with more tomorrow! Keep on writing NaNoWriMos!

Q&A with Dr. Reade Quinton

7. What is Texas law with regard to autopsy? Are all unattended deaths investigated? What about attended deaths?

The following deaths are considered medical examiner jurisdiction:
– Unexpected or unexplained deaths
– Death in the workplace
– Death within 24 hours of admission to the hospital
– Death within 24 hours of surgery
– All deaths under the age of 6
– Any death that is non-natural (accidents, homicide, suicide)
– Any death in police custody

While it is expected that these be reported to the ME, they may not all get autopsies. For instance, an 80 year old man who dies at home is technically an unattended death that must be reported, but we may not do an autopsy if medical records are sufficient. If the decedent is in the hospital under the care of a physician and dies of natural causes, then it is NOT considered a medical examiner case.

8. What is a forensic autopsy?

The forensic autopsy consists of the external examination, internal examination, toxicology, ancillary studies as needed, and generation of the autopsy report. The external examination includes photographs of the body and injuries, collection of evidence, listing clothing and personal effects, identifying marks and scars, identifying evidence of treatment, and documentation of natural disease or evidence of injury. This portion of the exam may also include identification of remains. The internal examination consists of removing the organs (including the brain) and identifying disease and or trauma. Toxicology is typically performed on blood, urine, vitreous fluid, and skeletal muscle.

9. Do you travel to crime scenes at all?

In some offices, the medical examiner attends all of the scenes. In larger offices, the scene investigators go and document the scene and story. I rarely go myself, unless there is an extremely high profile situation. Even then, it would probably be the chief who would go out.

10. When is the autopsy done?

It varies with the office, but ours start at 7:00 AM and we usually stop around 3:00 PM. Anything that comes in that afternoon or night is held until 7:00 the following morning. We work every day of the year, including major holidays! Some offices may shut down on Sundays or major holidays, but large offices have too much volume.

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