A medical examiner assistant assists pathologists and coroners in performing autopsies, determining causes of death, and documenting injuries. As the job title implies, the assistant’s primary responsibility is to provide support. In conducting forensic investigations, he or she assists other doctors and medical professionals. The job necessitates a high level of scientific and medical knowledge, as well as the ability to draw accurate conclusions quickly from often sparse evidence.
The job description for a medical examiner assistant varies depending on the employer and the job context. Most work for cities, municipalities, or other government agencies, collaborating with police to investigate homicides and other suspicious deaths. Others work for private detective agencies or insurance firms.
Assistants to medical examiners are also known as pathology assistants or coroner assistants. They are medical doctors or medical students who work under the supervision of a forensic doctor and are involved in every aspect of the medico-legal investigation. Dissections, autopsy analysis, and wound and scar inspection are all common examples. In most cases, these doctors also perform full post-mortem medical examinations.
There are three core job responsibilities that a medical examiner assistant is bound to encounter on a daily basis, regardless of where they work: forensics, pathology, and investigative medicine. To conduct forensic examinations, assistants work alongside lead pathologists. These examinations are usually conducted as part of a criminal investigation. Many pathologists and their assistants work on call, often going straight to the crime scene to examine evidence before transporting bodies and bodily remains to a laboratory for autopsy and further testing.
An assistant is frequently in charge of writing up research and preparing police reports. In many cases, these reports will be used in legal proceedings. To comply with governing court rules, assistants are usually required to receive special training in evidence collection and reporting.
Different jurisdictions have different requirements for becoming a medical examiner assistant, but a medical degree — or at least significant progress toward obtaining one — is almost always required. Autopsies, criminal assault investigations, and other death-related bodily analysis are usually only performed medical professionals. Pathologists and coroners are almost always medical doctors, and their assistants must be as well in most cases. Legal knowledge and law enforcement experience are usually also required.
Many doctors who want to specialize in forensics work as medical examiner assistants to get a sense of what it’s like to work as a full-time forensic specialist. Medical students or recent graduates can intern under a pathologist in some places, while assistants in other places must be fully qualified doctors, preferably with pathology specialty work already completed. Assistants are frequently promoted to lead or chief medical examiners, and the experience is transferable to a variety of other investigative jobs, including those with hospitals, police departments, and private investigative firms.