Lecture 6 – Forensic Science In Canada Today

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Lecture 6 Death Investigation in Canada
Investigation systems
o 2 types of systems:
Medical examiner (AB, MB, NS, NF)
Coroner (rest of the provinces)
o Investigate sudden and unexpected deaths in Canada is a
provincial responsibility
o Death certification and registration are provincial concerns (Vital
Stats Act) to obtain on death and issue a death certificate
o Death certified by attending physician or coroner
o Medical cause of death often incorrect (~20%)
Often list mode of death without listing the cause of death
o Usually forensic pathologists who make the judgment on cause of
death; manner of death is different
o In 5% of coroner’s autopsies, there is no cause of death found
o Physicians should know the provisions and requirements of the
acts in the various jurisdictions to avoid problems
o To avoid legal hassles all deaths should be reported to the
o Coroners and medical examiners responsible for indentifying
Cause of death
Underlying biological reason for death; e.g. cardiac
Manner of death
Mode or how death occurred (homicide, suicide, etc.)
Coroner System
o Locally based system, few involve Chief Coroner)
o All coroners are MDs, investigation of death is their main
o 8 regional coroners in Ontario
Many local corners who are medical doctors are not trained
in forensic science
o Local coroners (usually family physicians) are appointed by the
Lieutenant Governor of Canada and are paid on a fee for service
o Non-suspicious death: the coroner may undertake investigation
without the police
o Suspicious death: issue a warrant for a postmortem examination to
be conducted by a pathologist
Medical Examiner System
o Administered under the Fatal Inquiries Act (FIA)
o One medical person functions as coroner and pathologist
o Generally deaths are more thoroughly examined because the
coroner is a pathologist
o Fatalities Review Board reviews all unnatural deaths and decides if
an inquest is required
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