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319 Court Street

Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783

Phone: 906-635-6303

Fax: 906-635-6325

Medical Examiner: Dr. Paula Rechner, M.D.

Administrative Assistant: Cady Bauers

What services are provided by the Office of the Medical Examiner?

The Office of the Medical Examiner, in coordination with local law enforcement agencies, investigates deaths that are of concern to the public health, safety, and welfare of the community.  Deaths reported to our office are investigated; in some cases, the investigation includes a postmortem examination. The postmortem examination is usually a complete autopsy; however, in some cases, the examination may be limited to the external surfaces. The Medical Examiner determines the extent of the examination according to standards established by the National Association of Medical Examiners.  

An autopsy is ordered by the Medical Examiner to determine the cause and/or manner of death, to answer additional questions about the death and often to collect evidence. All autopsies are conducted by board-certified forensic pathologists who have completed advanced training in their area of expertise. The procedures often provide crucial evidence to criminal justice agencies. Information regarding a death is often essential for insurance claims, work-related compensation, or other death benefits. In addition, the Medical Examiner’s Office must accurately identify decedents under their jurisdiction.

In most cases, the autopsy is performed the day following death. Generally, the cause and manner of death can be determined shortly after the procedure. However, there are cases in which additional testing is required and the cause and manner of death may remain pending until a final determination is made. The final report may take two months to prepare due to the detailed studies performed. In rare cases, the report may take more than two months.

The Medical Examiner is also responsible for authorizing and signing all cremation and disinterment/reinterment permits, causes of death not determined by an attending physician, instances where no physician is available to sign the death certificate, sudden and unexpected deaths, and Prison deaths for the County they oversee.

What law gives authority to a Medical Examiner to order a postmortem examination?

The Michigan Medical Examiner Statutes, ACT 181, P.A. 1953, as amended and the Michigan Public Health Code, Act 368, P.A. 1978, as amended; mandate that certain types of death be referred to the medical examiner for investigation. Deaths that come under the jurisdiction of the Medical Examiner’s Office include, but are not limited to, sudden and unexpected deaths, accidental deaths, and violent deaths. The medical examiner has the authority under these Acts to order an autopsy at any time it is deemed necessary to determine or confirm the cause and manner of death, or comply with other statutory requirements. ​

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