This week at the Polk County Commissioners meeting, Dr. Mary Ann Sens, the county's contracted medical examiner, presented an overview of her activity during the past year. Sens is a part of the Forensic Pathology Practice Center in Grand Forks.
Sens stated that she is "involved in about half of all deaths in the county, per state statute. Many of these do not involve the sheriff, fortunately. They are Hospice deaths or cremation approvals."
She mentioned that cremation rates are rising throughout the United States. Between 40 to 60 percent of the population choose cremation rather than traditional burial services.
During Sens' first year serving Polk County, 263 individuals died. She consulted on 159 cases. Out of this number, she performed 26 autopsies: 11 from accidents, 10 from natural causes, four suicides and one homicide. She was a part of 14 investigations of a death certificate without an autopsy. All of these deaths were from natural causes. Nine were signed by the University of North Dakota medical examiners and five were authorized by personal physicians.
Sens approved a total of 82 cremations during 2012. The State of Minnesota requires all cremation requests to have the signature of a medical examiner before a body can be cremated.
One death certification review was completed during the last year. It was requested by the Minnesota Department of Human Services following the filing of a death certificate by a private physician. All was found to be in order.
Completing the 159 cases Dr. Sens worked on for Polk County were 36 Hospice Registrations for terminally ill persons receiving Hospice care. Nine of these situations required a demise review.
"It was a pleasure providing Polk County, Minnesota with Medical Examiner services for 2012," said Sens. "A variety of officials, health care facilities and funeral homes worked positively and constructively with our office for the important job of serving the families of the deceased and performance of medical legal death investigation."
Sans contract with Polk County will continue in 2013.