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

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November 1, 2010

Last month it was my pleasure to attend a local chapter meeting featuring medical examiner and forensic pathologist Dr. Reade Quinton. He answered a lot of questions, provided a great presentation and offered some insights into what you might need to know as an author if you deal with bodies, murder and autopsy. For your NaNo writing pleasure. I’m going to share some of his Q/A’s this week and insights. So be sure to check back each day for more NaNo writing tips, information and more.

Q&A with Dr. Reade Quinton

1. If there is a murder, is there automatically an autopsy, even if cause of death is obvious?

The answer should be yes, but it depends on the jurisdiction and the office. As a rule, most medical examiners would autopsy every homicide, even if the death is obvious (decapitation, etc.). It is not unheard of to do partial autopsies (head only, to retrieve a projectile), but I would consider it poor form.

2. If it was discovered the person was pregnant, is this info released?

The information is released on the death certificate, which is public record. However, the person filling out the death certificate might forget to do so (or intentionally withhold it?) and it could slip by.

3. In small TX towns, where is a body taken? Say like in a town similar to Granbury?

Small Texas towns that do not have the budget for a medical examiner rely on the local Justice of the Peace to determine cause and manner of death. The JP would decide if an autopsy was needed, and if so, who will do it. Most counties send their bodies to the nearest medical examiner office (the Dallas office covers 65 counties), but some areas employ private pathologists to perform the autopsy at the funeral home, etc. These private pathologists vary widely in their training and experience…

4. What law gives authority to a medical examiner to order an autopsy?

Article 49.25 (Medical Examiners) of the Texas code of Criminal Procedures

5. Who pays for this autopsy?

The taxpayers of that county.

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