A medical examiner is a physician, hence, the title medical examiner. When acting in an official capacity, the physician medical examiner is charged, within a particular jurisdiction, with the investigation and examination of persons dying a sudden, unexpected or violent death and with determining the cause and manner of the death. The manner of death is: homicide, suicide, accidental, natural or undetermined.
The role of a medical examiner differs from that of the non-physician coroner in that the medical examiner is expected to bring medical expertise to the evaluation of the medical history and physical examination of the deceased. The physician medical examiner usually is not required to be a specialist in death investigation or pathology and may practice any branch of medicine.
Most systems employing physicians as part time medical examiners encourage them to take advantage of medical training for medical examiners to increase their level of medical expertise as applied to death investigation. The National Association of Medical Examiners and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences are two organizations that offer specialized training. Twenty-three states have medical examiner systems, and 18 have mixed systems; that is, Medical examiner and coroner.