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Special Message to Medical Examiners

The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) recognizes that medical examiners (MEs) and coroners encounter family members when they are not working on mass disasters. Homicides often bring grieving families of victims to the ME’s office. Surviving family members of homicide victims often arrive at the ME’s office distraught, trying to cope with the murder of their loved one, expressing concerns, asking questions, and needing support.

In our constant search to find ways to improve services to victims, OVC recognized that the ME office is in the unique position of working directly with surviving family members after a homicide. OVC sees this time of interaction between the ME staff and the families of homicide victims as a good opportunity to improve the services and information provided to victims’ families. By providing the latest information, tools, and resources for working with victims, OVC can help ME offices perform their duties while improving the services, assistance, and information provided to victims’ families. For example, it may be helpful to the surviving family members to know that if their loved one was killed in a criminal act, they may be entitled to a variety of services, including victim compensation and assistance. More precisely, compensation funds may be available for use to reimburse victims’ families for out-of-pocket expenses that are directly related to the crime, including assistance with funeral expenses.

Each state and territory has a victim compensation program office designated by the governor. A list of these programs is available on the Internet. Find OVC’s Web site at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc, then select “Help for Victims” and “Victim Assistance and Compensation Programs.” The offices listed provide information about how victims and victims’ families can obtain crisis intervention, support during the criminal justice process, help in preparing victim impact statements during the presentence phase, help in applying for compensation, and help in obtaining restitution.

OVC hopes ME offices will use the OVC Web site to link to other organizations that offer helpful information and provide toll-free numbers. For example, through the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Web site, ME staff can obtain technical assistance for victim issues such as death notification. The Parents of Murdered Children Web site also offers support for homicide survivors.


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Providing Relief to Families After a Mass Fatality
November 2002
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