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Health Care Providers

Forensic Medical Examiners

A forensic medical examination addresses the safety and well-being of the patient and provides an opportunity to collect evidence and document the presence or absence of injury for prosecution. Examiners do not determine whether a sexual assault has occurred; investigators and attorneys determine the legal significance of the evidence gathered from the patient. The examiner's collection of evidence is the beginning—not the end—of the development of evidence for use at trial.18

Forensic medical examiners assess, provide care for, and document the signs and symptoms of physical and emotional trauma.19 According to the San Diego Sexual Assault Response Team manual, their roles and responsibilities also may include the following:20

  • Explain procedures to victims for medical-legal examinations.
  • Obtain victim's informed consent for the examination, photographs, specimens, and communication with law enforcement concerning the results of the examination.
  • Work with advocates in providing crisis and emotional care.
  • Assess risk and offer prophylaxes for sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, and pregnancy.
  • Provide medical treatment according to standard protocols and local guidelines.
  • Collect, document, preserve, maintain custody of, and transfer forensic evidence to law enforcement authorities.
  • Refer victims for followup care as appropriate with written discharge instructions and health promotion information.
  • Document interventions.
  • Collaborate with advocates, rape crisis counselors, law enforcement, and attorneys in implementing a plan of care.
  • Provide consultation and testimony for the prosecution or defense.