New Medical Examiner’s Office opens in St. Thomas
A new facility for the VI Medical Examiner’s office – including an autopsy room, mortuary, and offices for medical examiners and staff – opened Tuesday at 10A and 11A Bjerge Gade, St. Thomas.
The office is equipped with two autopsy tables, an X-ray machine, a cooler for 20 bodies (40 bodies stacked), a visit / family room, an observation / identification room , offices for the two medical examiners and bathrooms accessible to disabled people with locker, shower, washer / dryer and back-up generators. The parking lot has enough space to add at least two 40-foot trailers, allowing staff to respond quickly to a mass casualty event.
VI Attorney General Denise George joined Anthony Hunt, director of office operations, on a recent long-awaited office visit. Plans for the new location of the former Creque funeral home were unveiled in January 2017 as work was underway to transform it into a medical examiner’s office.
“It’s a great achievement,” said George. “The Medical Examiner’s Office is an integral part of the Department of Justice because it plays an important role in the investigation and prosecution of homicides. It just brings us to a new level so that we can preserve and improve the integrity of not only ME investigations, but homicide prosecutions as well. “
Forensic pathologists are doctors employed by the VI Ministry of Justice. They are the first responders to death calls to pick up and secure the bodies of the deceased. MEs have the legal power to investigate all unnatural or suspicious deaths, conduct subpoenas and question witnesses under oath in the same manner as a court, the Justice Department statement said. . In addition, MOEs must perform autopsies and testify when reports are used to substantiate cause and mode of death in homicide cases.
The ME is investigating the deaths of all those who died in the VI or whose bodies are found in the Virgin Islands, including:
– A violent death, whether by criminal violence, suicide, or accident; death caused by an unlawful act or criminal negligence;
– A death that has occurred in a suspicious, unusual or unexplained manner;
– A death caused by a suspected criminal abortion;
– Death without the supervision of a doctor, as far as it can be discovered, or when no doctor able to certify the cause of death as provided by law can be found;
– The death of a person interned in a public establishment other than a hospital, infirmary or rest home;
The Justice Department press release said the medical examiner has the authority to perform autopsies to determine the true medical cause and mode of death and to make a positive identification of unidentifiable remains by testing DNA. , dental records and fingerprints.
The former ME office was located at the Schneider Regional Medical Center. Hunt said the new configuration of the building is a more private and secure environment conducive to the work of forensic scientists.
As a forensic pathologist at the Justice Department for over 25 years, Dr Francisco Landron said the opening of the new facility was great news.
“This is historic for the VI and beneficial for the DOJ because we have our own morgue with new modern equipment. The upgrades and size also address the problem of available space encountered at the hospital, ”said Landron.
Although the laboratory is equipped with new equipment, it does not include a toxicology laboratory. Therefore, he said the samples are being sent to a reputable forensic lab. He said he hopes a lab will be considered, albeit expensive.
“It would be great to have one in the near future, but it involves a whole bunch of different forensic trained staff, a toxicology lab, and equipment which can be quite expensive,” Landron said.
Hunt said the medical examiner’s office works in tandem with the VI Police Department. He said officers would use the facility for their homicide and accident investigations. The facility will also serve as training for local law enforcement officers in areas such as anatomy, injury mechanism and evidence-gathering methods. The facility will also allow forensic science students, nursing students and field trainees to gain hands-on experience.
Attorney General George has said that since the inception, completing this project has been a priority. She thanked Hunt and the team for their cooperation in the construction and relocation.
She said work was underway to acquire a separate ME office in Sainte-Croix.
“It will be advantageous to have separate offices on the two islands. This significant improvement in the level of service is something we can all be proud of, ”said George.