Kelly Lear M.D. for Coroner
Arapahoe County, Colorado‚Äč
Forensic Pathology
Office of the Coroner
Forensic Pathology is the subspecialty of medicine focused on conducting death investigations, interpreting injuries, performing medicolegal autopsies and examinations, determining disease and injury causation to an appropriate degree of medical certainty and determining cause and manner of death.
The investigation of a death by the Coroner's Office is an extremely important, and often unrecognized, function. The Coroner's Office is an independent agency that does not work for a law enforcement agency, the prosecution or defense, or a treating physician, hospital, or care center. The Coroner's Office works on behalf of the deceased to obtain the truth about their death.
A Forensic Pathologist is a medical doctor with special training and experience in forensic pathology, who is actively engaged in medicolegal autopsies and death investigation.  Medicolegal examinations (autopsies) are performed by licensed Forensic Pathologists in order to provide a medical opinion on the cause, manner, and mechanism of disease, injury, and death; to aid in the identification of unknown persons; to identify and preserve significant biological and physical evidence; and to correlate and/or reconstruct wounds, wound patterns and wound sequences.  Forensic Pathologists apply their training and experience to the arenas of public health, public safety, quality assurance, education, research, and jurisprudence, with the ultimate goal of developing strategies to prevent disease, injury, and death.
By statute, the Coroner's Office is mandated to establish the cause and manner of death.  Deaths reportable to the Coroner's Office are outlined in state statute, but include sudden, unexplained and unexpected deaths; deaths in persons with no attending physician; all known or suspected homicides, suicides, and accidents; any case where trauma may have been associated with the death; deaths associated with industrial accidents, chemical exposures, or contagious diseases constituting a public health threat; and deaths of persons in custody of law enforcement or under the care of a public institution.  The Coroner is responsible for determining cause and manner of death and overseeing death investigations, positive identification, notification of next-of-kin, and other related functions.  If not a Forensic Pathologist, by state statute the Coroner is required to contract with a Forensic Pathologist to perform the medicolegal autopsies under their jurisdiction.  Because a Forensic Pathologist is specifically trained to perform the responsibilities that fall under the obligations of the Coroner and is better versed in interpreting medical information and overseeing death investigation than lay Coroners, a Forensic Pathologist is better equipped to perform the responsibilities of Coroner.  Having a Forensic Pathologist as Coroner eliminates a layer of unnecessary administration, saving the county significant funds while providing a higher level of service to the community.  Arapahoe County has elected a Forensic Pathologist as Coroner for over 30 years.