On May 27, 1999, Governor Thomas J. Vilsack signed a bill into law moving the Iowa Office of the State Medical Examiner (IOSME) from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Public Health. The mission of the IOSME is to establish credibility in death investigation in a system that will operate efficiently and serve the needs of the citizens of Iowa.
One of the main roles of the IOSME is to provide assistance, direction, and training to county medical examiner personnel and law enforcement officials. County medical examiner responsibilities are outlined in §§ 331.801–805 of the Code of Iowa, and the duties of the state and deputy state medical examiner are found under Iowa Code 691.5–6C. A comprehensive explanation of the roles and authority granted to medical examiners is found in 641 Iowa Administrative Code, Chapter 126 (State Medical Examiner) and Chapter 127 (County Medical Examiners). These chapters of the Iowa Administrative Code can be viewed and printed from the links found below.
In the investigation of medicolegal cases, state and county medical examiners are tasked to determine the scientifically unbiased cause and manner of death. Medical examiners must display uncompromising honesty, integrity, and loyalty to their community and their oath, regardless of any pressure they may receive from outside sources.
The role of forensic pathologists and death investigators is to investigate sudden, unnatural, suspicious, or violent deaths. The IOSME has five full-time board certified forensic pathologists, five part-time board certified forensic pathologists, two medical examiner investigator liaisons and two Iowa Donor Network (IDN) medical examiner investigator liaisons certified by the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators (ABMDI), and two medical examiner investigators. Forensic pathologists are physicians who have extensive training in performing autopsies and conducting death investigations. Medicolegal death investigators act as liaisons between the IOSME forensic pathologists and the county medical examiner offices, law enforcement and other investigative agencies, Iowa Donor Network, the family of the decedent, news organizations, and the general public.
The Iowa Office of the State Medical Examiner is accredited by the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME).
In addition, the IOSME manages the multidisciplinary state Child Death Review Team (CDRT) in accordance with Iowa Code 135.43. To learn more about CDRT, links to the annual reports are provided below.
Iowa Code/Iowa Administrative Code
- 331-801-805 County Medical Examiners - Appointment and Qualifications
- 691.5-6C State Medical Examiner, Interagency Coordinating Council
- 641-126 State Medical Examiner
- 641-127 County Medical Examiners