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Ector County Medical Examiner - Mission Statement

 MISSION STATEMENT

The Mission of the Medical Examiner’s Office is to provide medico-legal investigations into all deaths requiring a public inquiry to determine the cause and manner of death of the decedent and so that family might affect resolution and obtain closure; and,  in order that the legal and medical community might  affix responsibility and protect public health and safety.  The Medical Examiner will investigate all sudden, violent, suspicious and other deaths as directed in Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 49.25 that occur in Ector County, Texas, and disseminate the investigative, autopsy and toxicological results as is appropriate.

 

In the State of Texas, there are 2 types of death investigation systems utilized, the Medical Examiner system and the Justice of the Peace system.  Ector County is one of 14 counties in Texas that operates with a Medical Examiner’s Office.  The other 240 Texas counties operate under a Justice of the Peace system.  However, the 14 counties with a Medical Examiner’s Office cover 59% of the state’s total population.  The Ector County Commissioner’s Court made Ector County one of those 14 counties in 1993.

The Ector County Medical Examiner’s Office is committed to delivering professional service to the citizens of Ector County, ensuring that investigations are conducted in an expeditious and professional manner, ensuring that the body of the decedent is handled in a respectful and dignified manner and maintaining the highest level of sensitivity and compassion to the surviving family and friends during their time of grief.  Investigations conducted by the Medical Examiner’s Office are conducted independently of any other investigative agency including law enforcement.

Duties of a Medical Examiner include determining the cause and manner of death, authorization of cremation of decedent remains, testifying in criminal and civil cases, working to ensure public safety and health, to preserve evidence related to decedent and to provide unbiased testimony in a court of law.  

The Medical Examiner conducts medico-legal investigations into all sudden, traumatic, criminal, unattended and otherwise suspicious or unexplained deaths that occur in Ector County.  Investigations may include an autopsy if necessary to determine the official ruling of cause and manner of death.

The Ector County Medical Examiner’s Office operates 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, year round.  ECME is staffed by the Medical Examiner, 1 Chief Investigator, 3 investigators and 1 secretary.  Our office is open 8am-5pm Monday thru Friday at 200-A W. 3rd Street in Odessa, TX, phone 432-332-4592.  An on-call investigator is available after-hours, weekends and holidays by calling 432-640-4000 and asking for the on-call investigator.

FAQ

 

Why is the Medical Examiner’s Office involved in any death?

Article 49.25 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure requires the Medical Examiner to investigate deaths that fall into certain categories including unattended death, deaths that occur less than 24 hours after admission to a hospital, nursing home or other institution, where the cause of death is not known, when a person is killed or otherwise dies due to unnatural causes or under suspicious circumstances, deaths of children under 6 years of age, suicides, any death wherein the body is unidentified and all in-custody deaths.

 

Why are investigations necessary?

Investigations allow a collection of facts that surround all natural, unnatural or unexplained deaths. These facts aid the Medical Examiner to determine the cause and manner of death.  The primary function of the Medical Examiner is to search for a truthful, logical, and scientifically unbiased statement of the cause and manner of death of any individual.  The Medical Examiner must use all available information to include information gathered by the Medical Investigator, police reports, information from family and friends of the decedent, and information from doctors and other medical resources. Investigations also aid in the determination of possible environmental hazards, job safety violations, consumer product dangers and public health threats.

 

Does every death investigated by ECME require an autopsy be performed?

No. The Medical Examiner will order an autopsy when investigation reveals a need for this procedure to establish cause of death or in cases where criminal proceedings may follow.  The Medical Examiner may not order an autopsy if the cause of death can be determined through investigation.  Each investigation is handled on a case-by-case basis. Autopsies ordered by the Medical Examiner do not require family permission.  When family objects to an autopsy based on religious, cultural or other beliefs, every effort to work with the family on this issue will be made.  However, the legal responsibility to perform our duties as required by law will take precedence. 

 

What is an autopsy?

 It is a dignified surgical procedure that provides a systematic examination of the body of a deceased person and is conducted by a qualified physician.  The body is examined for presence of disease or injury and small specimens of the organs or body fluids may be taken for toxicology testing or other analysis. Internal organs and the brain are examined.  The organs are replaced in the body for burial or cremation. In rare cases, autopsies may be ordered and conducted at other appropriately qualified facilities. Transportation of the decedent to and from autopsy is provided by the Ector County Medical Examiner’s Office at no cost to family.

 

 When is an autopsy necessary?

 When it is necessary to determine whether death resulted from natural cause to include disease or from injury or from a combination of the two, an autopsy may be ordered.  Examples would include but are not limited to cases where sudden death occurs and cannot be attributed to a diagnosed disease or where the cause of death cannot be properly certified by a physician on the basis of prior or recent medical events or diagnoses, death occurring under suspicious circumstances or as a result of trauma or violence, deaths suspected or known to have been caused by contagious disease which constitutes a public health hazard, deaths which occur in a jail or prison or as a result of police intervention, deaths of children under 6 years of age and a death where the body is unidentified.  Not all cases result in an autopsy being conducted.  Based on investigation, an autopsy may or may not be ordered in these or other circumstances at the discretion of the Medical Examiner.

 

May I view the body in the morgue?

 No. It is prohibited by our policy.  Also, the Ector County Medical Examiner’s Office utilizes the morgue at Medical Center Hospital.  Medical Center Hospital Policy specifically prohibits viewing of deceased persons in the MCH morgue as well.

 

Is it necessary for me to go to the Medical Examiner’s Office and identify the body?

 No. In most cases, visual identification by a family member is not necessary.

 

 When will the body be released?

Once the examination is complete and a family has designated an arrangement for burial or cremation, the body will be released.  This is usually to a funeral home, mortuary or cremation service.  Next-of-kin must contact the Ector County Medical Examiner’s Office and provide instructions to release the body.

 


 

 What happens to clothing and personal items on the decedent at the time of death?

 All clothing and personal items held by the Ector County Medical Examiner’s Office will be released to next-of-kin as appropriate or to the funeral home, mortuary or crematory upon release of the body. Any item identified as evidence will be released to the investigating law enforcement agency.

 

 What kinds of reports are produced?

The Ector County Medical Examiner Office produces four reports to include an investigation report, a one page report of findings, a toxicology report if ordered and an autopsy report if ordered. Death certificates are not available through the Ector County Medical Examiner.  Death certificates are finalized and distributed through the State of Texas Vital Records and Statistics.  Your funeral home and/or Ector County Clerk’s Office may be able to assist with death certificates.

 

 Who may obtain copies of the reports?

 Reports are provided to law enforcement, the district attorney, other appropriate government agencies and the hospital providing treatment at the time of death.  A copy of the report of findings, the autopsy report if ordered and the toxicology report if ordered will be provided to appropriate next-of-kin at no cost upon request.  Other requests for release of information should be directed to the Ector County Medical Examiner’s Office in Odessa, TX, 432-332-4592.



A SPECIAL MESSAGE TO FAMILY MEMBERS
 
          The Ector County Medical Examiner’s Office is required by law to conduct certain death investigations. It is important that you realize our agency has made its own commitment to you to assist in any way we can during the difficult times that follow the death of a loved one. Our primary mission is to provide you with accurate and timely information regarding the death, in order for you to understand what happened and share that with other family members and friends. If our office can assist you in any way during this time, please do not hesitate to contact us at 432-332-4592 or by contacting our on-call investigator after-hours, weekends and holidays at 432-332-4592.
 
        The Ector County Medical Examiner’s Office extends to you its deepest sympathy regarding the loss of your loved one. It is our policy and desire to assist you in the best possible manner.