Ponni Arunkumar, Chief Medical Examiner



The Medical Examiner ensures public health and safety by performing postmortem examinations to determine cause and manner of death for individuals who die in Cook County and to ensure the dignified final disposition of indigent decedents.


Established by Cook County Code of Ordinances, Chapter 38Health and Human Services, Article VI Medical Examiner. Abolishment of the Office of the Coroner and establishment of the Office of the Medical Examiner authorized by 1972referendum.

Key Activities and Services

  • Provides death investigation, autopsies, trial testimony and indigent disposition
  • Investigates any human death that falls within any or all of the following categories: criminal violence, suicide, accident, suddenly when in apparent good health, unattended by a licensed physician, suspicious or unusual circumstances, criminal abortion, poisoning or attributable to an adverse reaction to drugs and/or alcohol, diseases constituting a threat to public health, disease or injury or toxic agent resulting from employment, during medical diagnostic or therapeutic procedures when not expected, in any prison or penal institution, when involuntarily confined or in police custody, when any human body is to be cremated, and unidentified bodies.

Discussion of 2017 Department and Program Outcomes 

Timely autopsy reports: In FY 2013, the Medical Examiner set a goal of 40% of autopsy reports completed in 90 days due to an extreme short staffing of pathologists. In FY 2014, the office set a goal of 90% completion in 90 days and by June 2014 completed 93% of autopsy reports in 90 days. For FY 2017, the ME aims to produce 85% of its autopsy reports within 60 days of the autopsy, en route to 90% in 60 days by FY 2018, thus eliminating a Phase I National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME) deficiency.

Key Performance Indicators currently tracked by the Medical Examiner’s Office include workload metrics such as number of cases received, number of autopsies performed, number of external examinations conducted, number of toxicology tests performed and number of cremation permits issued.

Spearhead staffing improvements: NAME accreditation guidelines state that it is a Phase I deficiency for a pathologist to perform more than 250 autopsies in a year and it is a Phase II deficiency for any physician to perform more than 325 autopsies per year. One Phase II deficiency precludes full NAME accreditation and failing to meet these national standards can prove problematic in court. We are projecting an average of 280 autopsies per pathologist for FY 17 dropping to 265 in FY 18 as we continue to improve staffing.

Timely and respectful burial and cremation: The M.E. Ordinance allows us 60 days to dispose of identified decedents held in our cooler. For FY 17, we set a target of five bodies in the facility over 60 days since we have transitioned from burial to cremation of indigent remains. This should keep our census low year round.

Budget, Cost Analysis and 2018 Strategic Initiatives and Goals

The Cook County Medical Examiner is the only Medical Examiner in the State of Illinois and serves a population of more than 5 million people in determining cause and manner of death.

The Medical Examiner's budget request represents the minimal operating budget that is required to maintain Full Accreditation with the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME). Further reductions would jeopardize the Medical Examiner's Office status with NAME and would undermine and erode recent successes.

The Medical Examiner's Office is committed to providing excellent service while maintaining fiscal responsibility for the residents of Cook County.

Our 2018 initiatives include gearing toward obtaining NAME-ISO (International Organization for Standardization) accreditation in 2019 and updating our radiology imaging capability.

Budget and Full Time Employee Data