Dr. Jonathan Lucas – LA County Medical Examiner

Dr. Jonathan Lucas Luncheon
July 30, 2018
USC Health Sciences Campus
Norris Medical Library West Conference Room
Noon to 1:30pm
WIM Members $18; non-members $20 (price includes lunch)

What is the role of the Department of the Medicial Examiner-Coroner in LA County?

“The citizens of Los Angeles County expect that their dead will be treated with dignity and respect. The Department of the Medical Examiner-Coroner (DMEC) and the Office of Decedent Affairs (ODA) in the Department of Health Services (DHS) provide services to transport, examine, and cremate or bury the county’s dead, depending on the circumstances surrounding a particular death.”

This is from the Grand Jury report “How do we Care for the Dead when the Dead don’t Vote” last year prior to Dr. Jonathan Lucas’ appointment as LA County Coroner. Dr. Lucas became Medical Examiner a year ago when he assumed leadership of an organization that was the subject of a Grand Jury investigation (see below for a link to the report). Join us for lunch on July 30, to learn how his department runs and operates in LA County, LA City and the state of California.

The Report continues:

“The office of the Los Angeles DMEC is statutorily charged with investigating ‘all violent, sudden, or unusual deaths within the County.’ The Medical Examiner-Coroner informed the CGJ that in one out of three deaths in the county DMEC is called to the scene. Of the 60,000 – 80,000 deaths each year in Los Angeles County approximately 20,000 – 25,000 are reported to DMEC. The department accepts jurisdiction in about 10,000 of those and actually brings in 8,000 – 9,000 bodies for closer examination. The department operates 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

“The staff of DMEC conducts its work in the largest metropolitan area in the United States and is exceptionally well trained. The large, diverse population in our county produces post mortem investigations across a broad spectrum of complexity and manner of death. Each year forensic pathologists, investigators, toxicologists, and other criminalists conduct myriad independent, objective medicolegal investigations in the public interest.

“DMEC determines facts to assist in court cases and also to contribute knowledge in the areas of occupational disease, epidemic disease, and industrial accidents. Such investigations additionally aid the public health purposes of revealing unsuspected contagious disease and preventable hazards to health.

“More than 50 years ago, forensic pathologists in the Los Angeles DMEC pioneered the practice of psychological autopsy, which has aided policy development in suicide prevention.10 Toxicologists in DMEC also have identified testing methods for new designer drugs while conducting post mortem analyses, although current severe staff shortages have eliminated DMEC’s ability to do this.”

“With more than 10 million residents, Los Angeles County is the most populous county in the nation. It covers 4,752 square miles and, significantly, is congested with nearly 8 million registered vehicles.

“DMEC’s sole facility is located in downtown Los Angeles, although there are three satellite facilities out of which a handful of investigators operate. No one is allowed to touch or move a body at an accident or crime scene unless the Coroner gives them permission to do so or until a Coroner’s Investigator arrives. The CGJ has been informed that the average time for an investigator to travel through traffic from the downtown headquarters to a death scene in most areas of the county is usually 30 to 90 minutes and sometimes nearly three hours. Thus, distance and population density both affect the effective conduct of DMEC’s work.

“DMEC processes about 9,000 – 10,000 bodies and performs about 4,000 autopsies per year. While its workload is comparable to that of the medical examiner offices in New York City (all boroughs are organized under one medical examiner) and Cook County (Chicago), which report performing more than 5,000 and about 3,700 autopsies per year, respectively, those other jurisdictions are physically smaller, serve smaller populations, and employ more critical staff per capita than DMEC.

“The morgue processes all deaths that occur in LAC+USC Medical Center. Indigent veterans, about three percent of Los Angeles County’s unclaimed indigent decedents, are processed by DMEC; individuals who die in the Medical Center after being injured during the commission of a crime and treated at LAC+USC Medical Center are also processed there.27 The morgue also receives unclaimed, indigent decedents from other county medical facilities as well as private convalescent care facilities. The bodies are retrieved by morgue transport staff.”
From “How do we Care for the Dead when the Dead don’t Vote” Grand Jury report (http://grandjury.co.la.ca.us/pdf/CORONER%20FINAL%20REPORT.pdf)

We hope you can join us for a fascinating luncheon with Dr. Lucas.