Webinar: Opioids and Death Investigation

The Forensic Technology Center of Excellence is presenting a webinar, "Opioids and Death Investigation: A 'Perfect Storm'", on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 at 1-2 p.m. EDT. The webinar will explore the intersection of the opioid epidemic with the work of the United States' medical examiners and coroners.


The opioid epidemic in the U.S. has resulted in historic numbers of drug-related fatalities. The Centers for Disease Control notes that more than six out of ten drug-related fatalities involve an opioid. Since 1999, the number of deaths involving opioids — including prescription opioids and heroin — quadrupled. Some 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Drug-related fatalities now exceed the peak numbers of other public health scourges such as HIV (1995), motor vehicle accidents (1972), and gun violence (1993).

Medical examiners and coroners (ME/C) are responsible for investigation and certification of all unnatural deaths in their jurisdictions, in accordance with state statute. Such unnatural deaths include apparent drug intoxications. Components of ME/C death investigations include assessment of the scene of death, review of medical records, coordination with law enforcement and first responders, performance of an autopsy, collection of appropriate specimens for toxicological analysis, interpretation of laboratory results, and death certification. This labor-intensive process requires both medicolegal death investigators and forensic pathologists (FPs).

Learning objectives for this webinar include:

  • Describe the strains that the unprecedented number of opioid-related fatalities, superimposed on an already understaffed medicolegal death investigation system, has produced.
  • List the typical and less common autopsy findings encountered in opioid-related fatalities
  • List the factors that coroners and medical examiners must consider when approaching, investigating, and certifying a potential opioid-related fatality

You can learn more and register for the webinar here.

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Digital-Image Management at Mass Gravesites

SKELETONIZED REMAINS that were carefully unearthed from the desert sands of Iraq tell their own story: the bones of an adult, still dressed in a woman’s apparel, lie supine. The skull is perforated by a bullet hole. Tucked in the space between the ribs and the left humerus is a much smaller skeleton, bones in the skull un-fused, and the fully clothed body partially swaddled in a blanket.