The Edmond Sun

April 13, 2012

LETTER: Webb reiterates need for ME’s office to move to Edmond

Special to The Sun

EDMOND — To the Editor:

I was surprised and disappointed to read in The Edmond Sun that Paul Blair, a candidate for Senate District 41, was opposed to the legislative resolution to fund the move of Oklahoma’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to Edmond. Two years ago the Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill directing the Medical Examiner’s office to be moved to Edmond and located near the Forensic Science Institute and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

Building a new Medical Examiner’s facility and the move to Edmond has been a high priority of the Edmond Area of Chamber of Commerce, Edmond Economic Development Authority, the University of Central Oklahoma, OSBI, district attorneys and Oklahoma law enforcement officers. Thanks to the efforts of Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, and the Edmond legislative delegation, through this resolution we now have a pathway to finance the move using the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education real property Master Lease Program and constructing the building on the UCO campus where Forensic Science and Funeral Science students can observe and intern.

The Medical Examiner is responsible for medicolegal death investigations to determine the cause and manner of death in violent, unexpected, suspicious or unattended deaths. With the constant threat of worldwide terrorism, infectious diseases, pandemics and catastrophic climatic vents, the practice of conducting medicolegal death investigations has changed dramatically.

For most of us, knowledge about this function of state government comes from what we have seen on television or read in crime novels. This work is very complex. Medical Examiner pathologists must be highly trained and have the proper facilities and equipment to conduct these complicated autopsy examinations. They are seeking the truth of why the death occurred.

Operations of the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner are not visible to most Oklahomans unless we have a member of our family or friend meet with a violent or unexplained death. The office has been historically underfunded and is in deplorable condition. With poor ventilation, inadequate space and outdated equipment, it is almost impossible to attract professional pathologists and technicians to work in the present office.

Today’s examiners and technicians need modern laboratories, instruments, Xrays, digital photography and imaging and high-speed cameras. The forensic application of emerging science and technology is constant and the CSI-savvy public expects no less than a 21st century Medical Examiner program.

At last we have a chance to correct this wrong.

I hope that as Blair becomes more familiar with the history and function of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, he will join those who support this move. It will be good for Edmond and for the people of Oklahoma.

W. Roger Webb


W. ROGER WEBB is president emeritus of the University of Central Oklahoma.