Departments » Medical ExaminerMission Statement
- To promote and maintain the highest professional standards in the field of medicolegal death investigation;
- To provide timely, accurate and legal defensible determination of cause and manner of death;
- To enhance public health and safety by increasing awareness of preventable deaths;
- To protect the interests of decedents, their loved ones and the community we serve.
- To ensure that investigations are carried out in an expeditious and professional manner, while maintaining the highest level of sensitivity and compassion to the surviving loved ones during their time of grief
- To coordinate with other public health and safety organizations and entities to reduce the incidence of preventable deaths
- To participate as part of the governmental response team for emergency management services
Our department personnel include:
- Medical Examiner
Our office is located on Wolf River Drive just off of State Highway 47. Turn left off of STH 47/55 onto Wolf River Drive. Keep to the right as if you are going toward the Menominee Tribal Courts. Our office is in the first building you see on the right. We share office space with Land Conservation/Forestry/Zoning.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What do I do next?
If you are the legal next of kin of the deceased, the first step you must take is to select a funeral home to handle the funeral arrangements. You must notify the Funeral Director that the death is being investigated by the Menominee County Medical Examiner’s Office (MCMEO). The funeral home should then make contact with the MCMEO so that we will know who to contact once the decedent’s body is ready for release.
Why is the Medical Examiner's Office involved?
Pursuant to Wisconsin State Statute 979.01, the Medical Examiner's Office is required to investigate deaths that fall into the following categories:
•All deaths in which there are unexplained, unusual or suspicious circumstances.
•Maternal deaths following abortion.
•Deaths due to poisoning, whether homicidal, suicidal, or accidental.
•Deaths following accidents, whether the injury is or is not the primary cause of death.
•When there was no physician or accredited practitioner in attendance within 30 days preceding death.
•When a physician refuses to sign or is unable to sign the death certificate.
•Deaths of inmates of public institutions, who have not been hospitalized for organic illness.
•Deaths that occur in association with, or as a result of diagnostic, therapeutic, or anesthetic procedures.
•Deaths due to neglect.
•Fetus of 20 weeks or older, unattended by a physician or practitioner.
•Sudden deaths of persons not disabled by recognizable disease processes, in which a fracture of a major bone (femur, humerus, or tibia) has occurred within the past six months.
•Deaths occurring outside of a hospital or nursing home, and not enrolled in a palliative care program under the care of a physician.
•Occupational related deaths attributable entirely or in part to external work place factors.
•Sudden and unexpected deaths occurring in infants or children under the age of 2, under circumstances not explained by a pre-existing medical problem.
Will I be able to view the body at the Medical Examiner's Office?
The Menominee County Medical Examiner's Office does not allow the viewing of decedents at our facility. Since the funeral home is the more appropriate setting for the viewing of remains, we ask families and friends to be patient and allow us to complete our examination, so that the decedent can be quickly released to the funeral home of their choice. If the investigation requires an identification to be made prior to autopsy, or to the release of an individual to a funeral home, a photograph can be used.
What is an autopsy?
An autopsy is a medical examination of a decedent, and consists of two parts: an external examination and an internal examination. During the external examination, the decedent is first examined as received (including any clothing present), again after removal of clothing, and yet again after being cleaned up. Throughout the examination process, the findings (traumatic injuries, disease states, etc.) are documented. Following the external examination, the decedent is then examined internally, with all organs and tissues examined for the presence of injuries and pre-existing natural disease.
In the course of an autopsy, samples of various organs, tissues and body fluids are retained for additional studies, if warranted. These studies include toxicology (testing for drugs, etc.), microscopic examination and microbiology (bacterial, viral, or fungal cultures). In addition, other items of evidence may be collected, such as trace evidence, bullets, knife blades, ligatures, hair, fingernail clippings, sexual assault swabs, etc.
Because Menominee County has a lay-person Medical Examiner, all autopsies are performed at a facility staffed by a board-certified forensic pathologist.
Will an autopsy be performed?
The MCMEO will consider the facts of each case individually, and determine what level of investigation/examination is necessary to determine the cause and manner of death and to clarify the circumstances surrounding the death. In some cases, this will require the performance of an autopsy.
Will an autopsy affect funeral arrangements?
The performance of an autopsy should NOT affect funeral arrangements. The incisions made during autopsy are easily concealed by a funeral director and are not visible during the funeral visitation. The performance of the autopsy should not delay the funeral under most circumstances.
Will I have to pay for an autopsy?
There is a charge to the family for signing the death certificate, as well as the associated transport when a death falls under the legal jurisdiction of the MCMEO.
Who can I speak to about a death investigation?
To inquire about a death investigation, you may contact the Office at 715-799-3351 at any time. You must provide your name, the name of the deceased, the date of death (actual or approximate), and your relationship to the deceased. Keep in mind that, while we do our best to keep families informed, we may not be able to answer all questions if the investigation is incomplete or if release of the information would compromise an active criminal investigation.
How can I find out about the cause of death?
Following the post-mortem examination of a decedent’s body, the MCMEO will contact the legal next of kin with preliminary findings (if they wish to be notified). If the cause of death cannot be determined immediately (requiring further investigation and/or studies), you may request that a copy of the final autopsy report be mailed as soon as it is complete (there is no charge for this service for the next of kin).
How can I retrieve my loved one's personal possessions?
All personal property that is received with the decedent’s body is released to the funeral home chosen by the legal next of kin. In some instances, personal property may be retained by law enforcement or the MCMEO for evidentiary purposes. A property release form listing all property with the decedent is signed by the person transporting the decedent for the funeral home.
When will my loved one's body be released?
The MCMEO does everything possible to complete examinations and release bodies within the shortest period possible. In the majority of cases, bodies are examined and released within 24 hours. Since autopsies are not routinely performed on Sundays or holidays, releases involving such periods may be delayed slightly.
How long does it take to get the results of the postmortem examination/ investigation?
In some cases the cause of death is evident at the time of autopsy. In these cases the death certificate is completed immediately and the examination report will typically be mailed out shortly thereafter. In other cases, the cause of death may require additional studies, and therefore, additional time. Many of these studies require processing and analysis of specimens by consulting laboratories, whose turn-around times are not controlled by the MCMEO.
Toxicology analysis is one of the most frequent reasons for delay in completing an investigation and death certificate. Forensic toxicology (in MCMEO cases) is very different from the drug testing performed in hospitals. Toxicology analysis may only take 4-6 weeks if no drugs are present; however, 8-12 weeks are typically required to perform the necessary confirmations and quantitations of drugs detected. Longer toxicology turn-around times are required in cases where numerous drugs are involved, where unusual drugs are involved, or if the person is decomposed.
Finally, the death investigation may be prolonged if the initial suspicions are not confirmed. The MCMEO may also confer with the law enforcement agency investigating the death to consider other possibilities (asking the police to return to the scene of death or to interview additional witnesses).
As one might suspect, all death investigations are different, and determining the cause and manner of death may require a great number of steps, each requiring time to complete---the time needed to complete some of these steps may not be under the control of the MCMEO. We greatly appreciate the patience of families and friends in these matters as we try to provide accurate and complete answers.
How can I obtain a copy of the death certificate?
The death certificate is completed in two sections: the medical portion is completed by the MCMEO, while the remainder is completed by the funeral home. Once the death certificate is completed, it is the responsibility of the funeral home to file the document with the WI State Office of Vital Statistics. The funeral home can then provide you with copies of the death certificate.
Can a "pending" death certificate be used as proof of death?
Yes. "Pending" as cause and/or manner of death implies that additional studies are necessary, such as drug testing, microscopic tissue examination, etc. A death certificate, even a pending certificate, is a legal document which serves as proof that the named individual has been pronounced dead. If any problems arise in the acceptance of this document as proof of death, please call the office at 715-799-3351 for assistance.
What if the funeral is being held out of state?
When a funeral and burial is to be held in another state, the family should contact the funeral director of their choice in that state. That funeral director will then take charge of making arrangements for the transport of the decedent’s body by contacting a local funeral director. The family should notify the out of state funeral director that the deceased’s death is being investigated by the MCMEO.
What is a Medical Examiner?
In the state of Wisconsin, each county individually chooses between one of two death investigation systems: a Coroner system or a Medical Examiner system. A Coroner system is supervised by a 'Coroner' who is elected. Coroners in the state of Wisconsin are not required to be physicians. A Medical Examiner system is one in which the office is supervised by a 'Medical Examiner,' who is a county official appointed by the County Executive and/or the County Board of Supervisors. In the state of Wisconsin, the Medical Examiner is not required to be a physician. Both systems have the same authority under Wisconsin state statute. Menominee County operates as a “Medical Examiner system.”
An important goal of the death investigation system is to determine the cause and manner of death. The cause of death is any injury or disease that alters one's physiology sufficiently to result in death - for example, gunshot wound, coronary heart disease, or cancer. The manner of death explains how the cause came about, and may be categorized as natural, accident, suicide, or homicide, or in some cases, "undetermined." Typically the cause of death is determined via autopsy, while the manner of death is based on investigation.
||Patrick Roberts - Medical Examiner
Phone: (715) 853-6213
Fax: (715) 799-3789
Click here to email
||P.O. Box 279
Keshena, WI 54135-0279
||W3270 Courthouse Lane
Keshena, WI 54135-0279
||In case of EMERGENCY immediately call 911!
Our department is an on-call Medical Examiner's office and work space. We do not have staff who occupy the office on any regular basis. However, we do check phone messages and emails daily. If you require a deputy to be paged please contact the Menominee County 9-1-1 Center @ (715) 799-3881.