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Belize, U.S. examine changes to death investigation system

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Posted: Friday, January 22, 2021. 6:46 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Representatives of the Governments of Belize and the United States of America met at a roundtable discussion on the method by which the former conducts death investigations in all cases of sudden, unexpected, unexplained, suspicious, or violent deaths. The participants discussed the benefits of transitioning from Belize’s current coroner system to one of a medical examiner system, including certification for forensic practitioners and training in forensic medicine and pathology.

Belize at the present has only a handful of forensic practitioners and often their conclusions are inconclusive except in the most obvious and extreme circumstances.

The discussion was facilitated by Dr. Roger Mitchell, the Chief Medical Examiner in Washington, DC. Dr. Mitchell highlighted the need to establish a cadre of locally certified medical examiners to support the existing medicolegal death investigation (MLDI) system in Belize and articulated a strategy for ongoing training and certification of Belizean medical examiners.

Those in attendance included the Acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Belize; the Attorney General, the Chief Executive Officers in the Ministries of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries and Health and Wellness; the Commissioner of Police; the Executive Director of the National Forensic Science Service (NFSS) and its forensic medical examiners.

Director Gian Cho noted that his organization assists police in investigating about a quarter of all reported deaths annually, involving certifying the causes and manner of death. The NFSS, he said, is upgrading its human resources to produce complete information to support these investigations.

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