Senator Cornyn

Cornyn, Murphy, Guest, Cleaver Introduce Bill to Address Shortage of Medical Examiners

April 18, 2024

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) and U.S. Congressmen Michael Guest (MS-03) and Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05) today introduced their Strengthening the Medical Examiner and Coroner System Act, which would help increase the number of board-certified forensic pathologists nationwide by encouraging qualified medical graduates to enter the field and providing support to accredited medical schools and providers in their recruitment efforts:

“The current shortage of medical examiners puts public safety and public health at risk,” said Sen. Cornyn. “The U.S. must increase the current amount of forensic medical service providers to meet the needs of communities across the country, and this legislation would help medical providers recruit and train qualified individuals to enter the critically important field of forensic pathology.”

“The shortage of forensic pathologists poses a serious risk to our public health system. Across the country, autopsies are often delayed for months on end, preventing families from gaining important closure and hurting our ability to fight future health crises,” said Sen. Murphy. “Our bill tackles this problem head-on by providing funding, training, and support to attract qualified medical graduates to forensic pathology so that we have enough Board-Certified Forensic Pathologists to meet national demand.”

“I am proud to join my colleagues in leading this important legislation that could help grow the medical examiner and forensic pathology workforce in Mississippi and across the country,” said Congressman Guest. “I look forward to continuing to work with Representative Cleaver, who is my fellow co-chair of the House Forensic Science Caucus, and Senators Cornyn and Murphy on this critical initiative.”

“Medical Examiners play a pivotal role in both public health and safety nationwide, but far too many communities are facing a dangerous shortfall of experienced examiners, with the United States needing to roughly double the number of board-certified forensic pathologists to meet the nation’s current needs,” said Congressman Cleaver. “To ensure local law enforcement and public health officials have the information they need in a timely manner, it is imperative that Congress strengthen the pipeline of quality pathologists. I’m proud to join Senators Cornyn and Murphy, along with Rep. Guest, to introduce bipartisan legislation that will address this emergency.”


Medical examiners and coroners are a crucial part of America’s public health system and help identify causes of death, monitor evolving health challenges, and save lives. Staff shortages can delay autopsies and death certification for months, preventing families from gaining closure and hamstringing the medical community’s ability to fight the opioid epidemic and other health crises.

Currently, there are only about 800 full-time practicing forensic pathologists in the country, but the U.S. needs 1,500-1,800 to provide full national coverage. However, recruiting and retaining forensic pathologists is challenging because of the training required and the burdensome workload due to the ongoing shortage. The Strengthening the Medical Examiner and Coroner System Act would:

  • Incentivize qualified medical graduates to enter the practice of forensic pathology by funding forensic pathology fellowships across the country;
  • Provide support to accredited medical schools and forensic medicine service providers that operate forensic pathology fellowship programs;
  • Encourage qualified individuals to enter the field of medicolegal death investigation;
  • Fund forensic medicine service providers and toxicology laboratories who support forensic medicine service providers;
  • And expand pathways to train, educate, and certify medicolegal death investigators.