Medicolegal Death Investigations – With Dr. Mary Dudley

The role of the medicolegal death investigator is to investigate any death that falls under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner or coroner, including all suspicious, violent, unexplained and unexpected deaths.

A death investigation is a process whereby a coroner or forensic pathologist seeks to understand how and why a person died. A coroner or forensic pathologist must answer five questions when investigating a death:

  • Who (identity of the deceased)
  • When (date of death)
  • Where (location of death)
  • How (medical cause of death)
  • By what means (natural causes, accident, homicide, suicide or undetermined)

Information may be obtained from several sources including, but not limited to family, co-workers, neighbors, doctors, hospital records, police and other emergency service workers. Contact with family is vital as they often have important information that can aid the investigation.

In This Episode – Medicolegal Death Investigations

In this episode I talk with Dr Mary Dudley about the field of Medicolegal Death Investigations and where the field  is progressing.  We discuss  some ‘best practices’ and obstacles faced by medicolegal death investigators  across the country, as well as what new and up coming investigators need to do to have a better chance of entering the field.

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Mary H. Dudley, MD, is the chief medical examiner (retired 2015)  for Jackson County in Kansas City, MO. She is board certified in Anatomic and Forensic Pathology by the American Board of Pathology. She completed a two-year fellowship in Forensic Pathology at the University of New Mexico following a four-year Anatomic and Clinical Pathology residency at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs. She has a diploma, BS, and MS in nursing and also founded the first forensic nursing certificate program in the United States in 1994. Dr. Dudley originated the first Forensic Medical Investigation course in the United States in 1996.

Dr. Dudley is a Board Member of the National Association of Medical Examiners, Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Science, co-chair of the Medical Examiner Advisory Board of Musculotissue Foundation, member of the Missouri Child Fatality Review Board, and member of the National Disaster Medical Systems (Disaster Mortuary Operations Response Team). She is also an Associate Professor of Clinical Pathology – University of Missouri-Kansas City and on the teaching faculty at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley Campus in Kansas City, Missouri, USA.

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  • Includes an extensive section on injury recognition covering blunt, sharp, and patterned injury, forensic odontology, gunshot wounds, and craniocerebral injury
  • Covers all the essential aspects relating to death investigations as well as investigations involving abuse and injury
  • Illustrates concepts with graphic images throughout


Introducing the basic concepts of clinical forensic medicine and death investigation, this bookcovers the main areas of forensic investigation . It provides an introduction to forensic science and coverage of injury patterns, natural disease, accidental trauma, child injury and fatalities, and domestic violence. Anyone who has direct contact with death, crime, and the medicolegal system, including nurses, physicians, attorneys, death investigators, forensic pathologists, and police detectives, will find this an invaluable reference.

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