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Medical Examiner Investigations Provide Lessons for the Living

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August 25, 2010

Autopsies and examinations performed by the Medical Examiner during the past year reveal concerning trends about what’s killing people.

County Medical Examiner
2009 Causes of Death

1. Cardiovascular
2. Drug/Medication-Related
3. Suicide
4. Fall
5. Motor Vehicle



592
443
377
374
284
 

The Medical Examiner’s office performed 2,707 autopsies and examinations in 2009. Of those cases, the leading cause of death was cardiovascular disease, accounting for 592 cases. That was followed by drug- and medication-related deaths, with 443 cases.

“The number of drug-related deaths continues to rise, and it’s not just illegal drugs but also prescription medications that are involved. Drug-related deaths have increased 85 percent over the past 10 years,” said Chief Medical Examiner Glenn Wagner, D.O.

Additional trends include:

  • Drug- and alcohol-related deaths have been the number one cause of non-natural deaths since 2003. There were 132 alcohol-related deaths last year.
  • Suicides have been on the rise since 2007, increasing 20 percent since 2006.
  • Deaths related to motor vehicles are at a ten-year low, with 284 cases last year.
  • Homicides remained lower than the 10-year average of 127, with 109 in 2009.

About half of the deaths in the county are reported to the Medical Examiner – approximately 11,000 deaths each year.  About 3,000 of those lead to investigations. 

Complete Medical Examiner 2009 statistics (PDF)


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