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Become a Local Medical Examiner


Thank you for your interest in becoming a local medical examiner.  You will be joining an organization that has gained world wide respect for its scientific thoroughness, legal preciseness and human compassion. As a local medical examiner you will play a critical role in Virginia’s medicolegal system.  Your decisions will set in motion a chain of events that can dramatically affect families, law enforcement officials and the state’s judicial system. 

Many of our local medical examiners serve out of a sense of community responsibility.   Others enjoy the interaction they have with their community’s first responders and law enforcement officials.  These intangible aspects of the job are added incentives to the pay they receive for their services. Whatever your reasons for serving may be we are sure you will gain a new sense of fulfillment as a local medical examiner.

If you choose to join our wonderful medicolegal system, we ask that you meet the following criteria:

Qualifications of a Local Medical Examiner

The minimum requirements to be a local medical examiner in Virginia include:

  • A valid Virginia license as a doctor of medicine or osteopathy
  • An appointment by Virginia’s chief medical examiner
  • A valid Virginia (or contiguous state) driver’s license

A local medical examiner may be nominated by the medical society of your city or county, however it is not required.

Once appointed, the statutory term for a local medical examiner is three years beginning on October 1 of the year of appointment. The Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. William Gormley, can make interim appointments between official appointment dates. Therefore, a physician can be appointed as a local medical examiner any time of the year and re-appointed at official appointment times.

A Virginia city or county medical examiner is a physician appointed by law to receive the initial call of death and determine whether that death falls within the jurisdiction of the medical examiner and, in some cases, determine the cause and manner of death of persons who die under specific circumstances spelled out by law. For a more specific overview of the duties of a local medical examiner, some background information on the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the types of deaths investigated by the medical examiner system please go to http://www.vdh.state.va.us/medExam/AboutMedExaminer.htm.

Although it is impossible to place a monetary value on the services the medical examiner offers to his or her community, the local medical examiners are compensated on a case-by-case basis.  Payment is $150 per case that falls under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner and an additional $50 if a scene visit is conducted. Another pertinent service local medical examiners provide is authorization of cremation certificates for funeral homes.  This entails viewing the remains and reviewing the death certificate properly signed by a physician.  Funeral homes pay the local medical examiner $50 for each cremation he or she certifies.

The local medical examiner is covered under the Risk Management Plan of the Commonwealth of Virginia while in the performance of his or her duties.  Coverage is as follows:
“This Plan will pay all sums, except as wherein limited,  or limited by the Code of Virginia, which the Commonwealth of Virginia, its departments, agencies, institutions, boards, commissions, officers, agents, judges, or employees, shall be obligated to pay by reason of liability imposed by law for damages resulting from any claim arising out of acts or omissions of any nature while acting in an authorized governmental or proprietary capacity and in the course and scope of employment or authorization.”

Aside from coverage alone, the Code of Virginia offers defense assistance… and cooperation:

“The Plan will defend any claim, suit, action or other proceeding relative to any loss or other occurrence that may be covered under this Plan.  Defense is provided under 2.1-37.1 et. seq. of the Code of Virginia. Unless otherwise approved in accordance with 2.1-121 or 2.1-122 of the Code of Virginia, the Office of the Attorney General shall provide defense.”

Our system simply would not function if it weren’t for the compassionate, community minded physicians like you throughout the Commonwealth who choose to become local medical examiners.  If you are a physician licensed to practice in Virginia and desire to serve as a local medical examiner, we invite you to speak to an assistant chief medical examiner in the district office of the Chief Medical Examiner closest to you.  http://www.vdh.state.va.us/medExam/ContactUs.htm.

Please send a letter requesting an appointment as a local medical examiner along with a copy of your curriculum vitae and Virginia medical license to:

William T. Gormley, M.D., Chief
Virginia Department of Health
Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
400 East Jackson Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219-3694


Last Updated: 02-21-2014

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