Overview

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) provides responsive front-line death investigation and death certification services.

The OCME investigates cases of people who die in Alberta:

  • from homicidal violence
  • from suicide
  • from an accident
  • unexpectedly when in apparent health
  • when unattended by a physician
  • while in the care of the government (eg, mental health or correctional facilities)
  • in circumstances considered suspicious
  • as a result of physician assisted death:

We also inspect death certificates in all cases where:

  • burial permits are issued
  • cremation is applied for
  • when a body is to be shipped out of province

Our investigations can range from a paper-based ’file’ review of medical records to a full autopsy.

Alberta’s fentanyl response

Latest steps to combat opioids are welcomed by Justice and Health Ministers
Fentanyl deaths in Alberta: 2011-16

Chief Medical Examiner

Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim was appointed as the Interim Acting Chief Medical Examiner of Alberta in July 2016. In this role, she oversees investigations into deaths across Alberta under the mandate of the Fatality Inquiries Act.

Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim has a long-standing career in forensic pathology that spans the UK and Canada. It includes these highlights:

  • Deputy Chief Medical Examiner in Edmonton
  • Assistant Chief Medical Examiner in Calgary and Edmonton
  • Forensic Pathologist & Coroner in Saskatchewan
  • Home Office Accredited Forensic Pathologist in England
  • Clinical Lecturer in Forensic Medicine & Pathology in Scotland

She holds Board Certification equivalency in Forensic Pathology and Histopathology from the Royal College of Pathologists in the UK. As well, she has earned post-graduate and professional certifications from:

  • Stanford University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Cornell University

Originally from the UK, Dr. Brooks-Lim earned her medical degree at the University of Bristol. Her post-graduate medical training in pathology and forensic pathology was completed in Leicester, Glasgow and Dundee.

Calgary and Edmonton offices

The OCME has offices in Calgary and Edmonton that each have 7 distinct, cross-functional working units:

  • Medical Examiner
  • Medical Investigator
  • Mortuary
  • Toxicology
  • Histology
  • Records
  • Administration

The OCME’s Medical Investigator Unit is available 24/7/365 – and its medical investigators are often the first point of contact for the deceased’s grieving relatives and friends and the deceased’s physician. These investigators interview them to determine if a death requires an investigation.

The 6 Assistant Chief Medical Examiners at the OCME perform an average of 4,000 post-mortem examinations – the physical review of deceased bodies – a year alongside the Chief Medical Examiner. They investigate nearly 20,000 deceased people each year.

Fatality Review Board

The Fatality Review Board oversees the work conducted by the OCME. The board’s independent panel is made up of a:

  • lawyer
  • physician
  • lay person

They review OCME case work and may recommend a public fatality inquiry into someone’s death in order to:

  • prevent similar deaths in the future
  • protect the public
  • clarify the circumstances surrounding the death

Announcements

Approximately 500 Canadians Die in Preventable Water-Related Incidents Annually
July 13, 2016

Statement from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner about an opioid-related death
May 16, 2016

Publications

Canadian Drowning Report, 2016 Edition