How the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) investigates sudden, unexpected or unexplained deaths in Alberta.
When a death occurs suddenly or it cannot be explained, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) conducts an investigation, under the authority of the Fatality Inquiries Act.
OCME investigates deaths to determine:
- identity of the deceased
- date and place of death
- medical reason for death (why it occurred)
- manner of death
The OCME investigates cases of people who die in Alberta:
- from homicidal violence
- from suicide
- from an accident
- unexpectedly when in apparent good health
- when unattended by a physician
- while in the care of the government (such as in mental health or correctional facilities)
- in suspicious circumstances
- from medical assistance in dying
We also inspect death certificates in all cases where:
- burial permits are issued
- cremation is applied for
- a body is to be shipped out of province
Our investigations can range from a paper-based file review of medical records to a full autopsy. Autopsies are prioritized and the vast majority of bodies are examined within one working day of their arrival at the OCME. This is vital so the bodies can be released for burial or cremation.
OCME staff members work in:
- forensic pathology
- records management
- the autopsy suite
Information bulletins are intended for police and medical communities in Alberta.
- General information on the Choking Game (PDF, 426 KB)
- Death investigation update for Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) deaths (PDF, 138 KB)
- Organ and tissue donation and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (PDF, 171 KB)
Caseloads and staffing
The OCME investigates 20,000 deaths on average each year, which includes a combined total of more than 4,000 autopsies and external exams.
Education, tours and presentations
The OCME helps teach and train medical personnel at the University of Calgary and University of Alberta. Education, tours and presentations include the following:
- post-graduate training in forensic pathology
- undergraduate forensic medicine elective
- tours of the OCME for affiliated professional agencies
- presentations to affiliated professional agencies and interest groups, including crime and medical conferences, and local school career days
For information about education or booking a tour or presentation, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Golden Triangle Conference
The OCME’s bi-annual Golden Triangle Conference alternates between Edmonton and Calgary in partnership with the Edmonton Police Service and the Calgary Police Service.
The conference provides training to:
- death investigators / coroners
- law enforcement personnel, including:
- municipal police
- the RCMP
- military police
2020 Golden Triangle Conference
Date: May 26-29, 2020
Location: Deerfoot Inn and Casino in Calgary
Tentative registration: Early January, 2020
For more information, contact: Golden.Triangle@gov.ab.ca
Poster (PDF, 315 KB)
How we’re organized
Chief Medical Examiner
Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim was appointed as the Chief Medical Examiner of Alberta on December 7, 2016. She oversees investigations into deaths across Alberta under the mandate of the Fatality Inquiries Act.
Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim has a long-standing career in forensic pathology that spans the UK and Canada. Her career highlights include:
- Interim Acting Chief Medical Examiner of Alberta
- Deputy Chief Medical Examiner in Edmonton
- Assistant Chief Medical Examiner in Calgary and Edmonton
- Forensic Pathologist & Coroner in Saskatchewan
- Home Office Accredited Forensic Pathologist in England
- Clinical Lecturer in Forensic Medicine & Pathology in Scotland
She holds Board Certification equivalency in Forensic Pathology and Histopathology from the Royal College of Pathologists in the UK. As well, she has earned post-graduate and professional certifications from:
- Stanford University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Cornell University
Originally from the UK, Dr. Brooks-Lim earned her medical degree at the University of Bristol. Her post-graduate medical training in pathology and forensic pathology was completed in Leicester, Glasgow and Dundee.
Assistant Chief Medical Examiners
The 7 Assistant Chief Medical Examiners and 2 Deputy Chief Medical Examiners at the OCME perform an average of 4,000 post-mortem examinations (the physical review of deceased bodies) per year alongside the Chief Medical Examiner. They investigate nearly 20,000 deceased people each year.
Calgary and Edmonton offices
The OCME has offices in Calgary and Edmonton that each have 7 distinct, cross-functional working units:
- Medical Examiner
- Medical Investigator
Medical Investigator Unit
The OCME’s Medical Investigator Unit is available 24/7/365. Medical investigators are often the first point of contact for the deceased’s relatives, friends and the deceased’s physician. These investigators interview them to determine if a death requires an investigation.
Fatality Review Board
The Fatality Review Board oversees the work conducted by the OCME. The board’s independent panel is made up of a:
- lay person
They review OCME case work and may recommend a public fatality inquiry into someone’s death in order to:
- prevent similar deaths in the future
- protect the public
- clarify the circumstances surrounding the death
Canadian Drowning Report, 2018 Edition (PDF, 10 MB)
The Chief Medical Examiner
Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim
Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim is the Chief Medical Examiner of Alberta.
Hours: 8:15 am - 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
24/7/365 for death notifications and emergencies.
Visit our office at:
Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
4070 Bowness Road NW
Calgary, Alberta T3B 3R7
Visit our office at:
Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
7007 116 Street NW
Edmonton, Alberta T6H 5R8
If you're a member of the media and want to speak with a media spokesperson or request statistics, call the Justice and Solicitor General media line at 780-644-3009.