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Kansas Conference Draws Experts in Forensic Investigation

Professionals from across Kansas heard from national and international experts in the field of death investigations

On April 24, 2024, professionals from across Kansas heard from national and international experts in the field of death investigations. With a focus on improving the quality of death investigations throughout the state, KU Medical Center Area Health Education Center and partners create the first Kansas Coroner Medicolegal Death Investigation Conference.

The event came together thanks to the contributions of partners including the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners (IACME), the National Network of Public Health Institutes (NNPHI), and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, all working alongside the KU Medical Center Area Health Education Center to bring high-quality training to professionals around Kansas who are involved in every stage of death investigations.  

Coroner logo with winged staff, snakes, and scales of justiceThe Kansas Coroner and Medicolegal Death Investigation Conference took attendees from the initial call to the postmortem examination and cause of death determination, where participants delved into the historical context of drug toxicity-related deaths, particularly the ongoing opioid crisis, and the significance of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System. They learned to identify a decedent and examine scene indicators of potential drug use or misuse, recognize scene safety concerns, and understand different types of drugs, consumption methods and paraphernalia. Expert presenters discussed current drug trends, the importance of postmortem examinations for potential drug toxicity-related deaths and options in resource-limited settings.

Attendees also explored foundational forensic toxicology terms, CDC and National Association of Medical Examiner’s recommendations for certifying drug toxicity-related deaths and characteristics of Sudden Unexplained Infant Death cases. They gained insights into the multi-step process involved in infant and child death investigations, including those with multiple scenes, and learned about the purpose of doll reenactment and the sensitivity required in such cases.

The statewide training would not have been possible without the invaluable contributions of John Fudenberg, executive director of the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners and former coroner of Clark County, Las Vegas, Nevada, Dr. Diane Peterson, chief medical examiner of Johnson County, Kansas, Kay Haug, state registrar and director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and Public Health Informatics at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Sara Hortenstine, executive director of the State Child Death Review Board in the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, provided reenactment dolls for investigative use in crimes against children.

“The course was extremely successful and exceeded our expectations,” Fudenberg said. "The State of Kansas is clearly thirsty for training, and we hope the relationship between the IACME and the medicolegal death investigation professionals in Kansas will continue into the future.”

Each year, the KU Medical Area Health Education Center presents a wide variety of programs for health care professionals across Kansas. Subscribe to our newsletter to be kept informed of events and information important to you!

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