The knowledge most consumers have regarding medical examiners comes from television shows and movies. In the media, medical examiners are often portrayed as catering only to patients who have already passed away. While conducting autopsies is one of the duties a medical examiner can fulfill, these medical professionals can also play an important role in preserving public health by examining living patients when necessary.
Here are three ways that a medical examiner can contribute to public health.
1. Medical examiners can stop the spread of contagious diseases.
When examining a deceased patient, a medical examiner must thoroughly check any skin lesions that are present. These lesions are often looked at under a microscope to determine if they can be attributed to natural causes, or if they are the result of a contagious illness.
If illness is suspected, the medical examiner can evaluate living acquaintances of the deceased for signs of lesions as well. Identifying these contagious illnesses allows medical examiners to prevent the spread of disease in a population.
2. Medical examiners can identify signs of abuse.
As part of every routine autopsy, a medical examiner will evaluate a body for signs of abuse. It's estimated that only about half of violent domestic incidences are reported to police, which means many victims never receive the help they need.
If a medical examiner identifies signs of abuse, family members can be evaluated to determine if the abuse is affecting them as well. Being able to help identify abusive environments through the examination of both deceased and living victims helps medical examiners contribute to the prevention of domestic violence in a community.
3. Medical examiners can identify environmental contaminants that could compromise public health.
When it comes to keeping a community safe, preventing environmental contamination is essential. If a drinking water supply or food chain becomes compromised, an entire population could be exposed to the risk of serious illness or death.
Medical examiners evaluate stomach contents and blood panels as part of routine autopsies. If any environmental contaminants (like those that contribute to the development of environmental diseases) are discovered during an autopsy, a medical examiner can prevent the spread of illness by reporting his or her findings to the proper authorities.
Medical examiners play an important role in helping to protect the health of the general public. By identifying potential contagious diseases, abusive situations, and environmental contaminants, a medical examiner is able to contribute to public health in his or her community. Contact a DOT medical examiner for more information.