MD Program

Elective Years 3 & 4: Sudden Death Investigation

Department: Laboratory Medicine
Title: Sudden Death Investigation
Location: Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
Duration: Minimum 2 weeks

University of Alberta Students: Placement Contact:  Laura Cline, 780-427-4987,  Preceptor:  Dr Cecilia Wu
Visiting Canadian Medical Students:


The student will participate in death investigations conducted under the authority of the Fatality Inquiries Act. The student will participate in review of gross autopsy, together with the medical history of the decedent, and the circumstances of the death in order to determine the cause and manner of death.


Completing this elective should enable students to:

  • learn and understand the role of the Medical Examiner's Office in the investigation of sudden death.
  • learn the importance of scene investigation, history, and autopsy in determining the cause and manner of death.
  • learn the attending physician's role and responsibilities in death certification.
  • learn the definition of cause, manner, and mechanisms of death, and how to properly complete a death certificate for natural deaths.
  • learn the general criteria in North America for which a death needs to be reported to the local Medical Examiner (or Coroner)
  • learn the role of the external examination in sudden death investigation.
  • learn the importance of and methods of collecting toxicology specimens at the time of external examination or autopsy.
  • gain understanding of autopsy pathology as it pertains to the investigation of sudden and/or violent deaths.
Additional Notes:

This elective would be of particular value to students considering a career in General Practice, Emergency Medicine, Surgical specialties and Pathology.

Electives are generally not available in July or August of each year.  Exceptions with a specific reason will be considered on a case by case basis - please contact Mrs Cline to inquire


  Last Updated: April 25, 2017