Fact versus Fiction

The cause and manner of death are indisputable statements of fact.

The cause and manner of death are statements of opinion based on evidence found during the entire death investigation. The medical examiners are professionally qualified and trained to evaluate all relevant information from medical history, circumstances, witness statements, autopsy and subsequent analyses to determine cause and manner of death.

48 hours after the police get involved in a homicide, the evidence is analyzed, the suspect is caught and the case is closed.

Even the simplest homicide is rarely solved in 48 hours. The investigating law enforcement agency works with the Lewis and Clark County Office of the Coroner to piece the case together, assessing the scene, evidence, suspects, witnesses, next-of-kin, etc.  The medical examiner performs the autopsy after the body is brought to the office. In some cases, toxicology specimens and other evidence is collected and then analyzed before the cause and manner of death are determined.  The law enforcement agency continues its investigation to determine and then ultimately capture any suspect(s). This process can range from days to weeks to months.

You can overdose on water.

Water intoxication can occur. By drinking too much water, one can develop hyponatremia, the dilution of blood. The excess water ends up in cells, causing them to swell up. This becomes a problem primarily in the brain, where there is limited space for cells to expand. Severe cases exhibit symptoms such as headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, frequent urination and mental disorientation.

A single forensic investigator can collect and analyze all evidence from a crime scene and then pursue the suspect.

Crime scene investigation and analysis requires a whole team of experts to collect and process evidence. Many times the collector of evidence is different from the analyst processing the evidence. The identification and pursuit of suspects are up to the law enforcement agency’s detectives and other officers.

Everyone who dies ends up at the Office of the Coroner.

Not all deaths require investigation and examination by the Office of the Coroner and Medical Examiner. In general, the Coroner or Deputy Coroner investigates sudden, violent or unusual deaths and those deaths where the decedent has not been seen by a physician 30 days prior to death.