The Onondaga County Medical Examiner’s Office is a County and State funded activity with the statutory responsibility of certifying cause and manner of death in all sudden, unexpected and unnatural deaths. The Medical Examiner’s Office also has the responsibility to certify the cause and manner of death when an attending physician is either unwilling, or unable, to certify their patient’s death. Of the nearly 1,600 deaths reported to the Onondaga County Medical Examiner’s Office each year, approximately 1,000 will be certified by them. Most of these deaths occur in Onondaga County. The Medical Examiner’s Office also certifies all cases for Madison, Oswego, and Cayuga Counties and other counties on a case-by-case basis. The Medical Examiner’s Office has developed a regional service with the opening of the Center for Forensic Sciences.
Located at 100 Elizabeth Blackwell Street, on the S.U.N.Y. Health Science Center campus, the Center houses the Medical Examiner’s Office and Forensic Science Laboratories.
The following deaths are reportable to the Medical Examiner:
- Any death where any form of violence, either criminal, suicidal, accidental, intentional, or unintentional,
- was directly responsible, or was contributory.
- Any death caused by an unlawful act or negligence.
- Any death occurring in a suspicious, unusual or unexplained fashion.
- Any death where the attending physician is either unable, or unwilling, to sign the death certificate.
- Any death of a person confined to a public institution.
- The death of any prisoner, even though the cause and manner both appear to be natural, regardless of the location of death.
- Any death caused by, or suspected to be the result of, drug and/or chemical poisoning or overdose.
- Any sudden death of a person in apparent good health.
- Any death occurring during diagnostic or therapeutic procedures, resulting from such procedures, or having such procedures play a contributory role.
- Any fetal stillbirth in the absence of a physician.
- Any death where there is insufficient medical information to explain the individual’s demise.
- In addition, the office welcomes inquiries regarding the reportable status of any other death within Onondaga County.
In addition to their statutory obligations, the Medical Examiner’s Office is a supporter of the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation Tissue Services Program. This program harvests suitable tissues from decedents, with the consent of the next of kin, which are used for transplantation in living persons. Death investigation educational programs are provided to law enforcement, health services and social services personnel and other community agencies, as well as specialized pathology education to medical students and pathology residents.
The Medical Examiner’s Office provides expert forensic pathology services to the community on request by reviewing records for the determination of the cause and manner of death where there is no body currently available as well as evaluating injury patterns in living victims of abuse, particularly in children.
The primary role of the Forensic Toxicology Laboratory is to assist the Medical Examiner’s Office in determining the cause and manner of death in all sudden, unexpected and unnatural deaths. Employing such techniques as gas chromatography, liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, immunoassay, and other sensitive analytical methods, the laboratory determines if drugs, alcohol and/or poisons are present in the submitted specimens. Also, the Toxicology Laboratory conducts testing on specimen submissions generated from DUI/DWI, drug facilitated sexual assaults and other investigations by law enforcement agencies.