Utility of a Grief Services Program for Medical Examiners' Offices


  • Presented at the 64th Annual Meeting for the American Academy of Forensic Science, February 23, 2012, in Atlanta, GA.

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Sarah L. Lathrop, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Pathology

New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator

MSC07 4040

1 University of New Mexico

Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001

E-mail: slathrop@salud.unm.edu


Medical examiner/coroner's (ME/C) offices investigate sudden, violent, and unexpected deaths, leaving those close to the deceased suffering traumatic loss with little in terms of support and counseling. We investigated a grief services program (GSP) at the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI) to better understand the needs of bereaved individuals, identify the services provided, and propose our findings as a model for others. A total of 1085 contacts occurred over 1 year, with the majority occurring at OMI (60.5%), followed by telephone (23.1%). Support was primarily provided to those suffering a loss due to homicide (28.8%) and suicide (26.1%). The roles grief counselors play in the setting of a GSP and ME/C office are multiple. Given the frequent utilization of OMI's GSP and diverse reasons for visits, it is apparent there is a need for GSPs at ME/C offices, particularly given the traumatic nature of deaths investigated by ME/Cs.