Coroner Investigations of Suspicious Elder Deaths; 2008-2011 [California] (ICPSR 33742)

Principal Investigator(s): Mosqueda, Laura, University of California-Irvine

Summary:

These data are part of NACJD's Fast Track Release and are distributed as they were received from the data depositor. The files have been zipped by NACJD for release, but not checked or processed except for the removal of direct identifiers. Users should refer to the accompanying readme file for a brief description of the files available with this collection and consult the investigator(s) if further information is needed.

This was a two phase project designed to investigate the decision-making process of the coroner/medical examiner (CME) offices who are charged with investigating suspicious elder deaths and to pilot an intervention that augmented the decision-making process in three CME offices. In phase one, researchers collected case data from CME offices, public data on elder deaths, and interviews with CME investigators. Researchers then developed a brief screening tool, Elder Suspicious Death Field Screen (ESDFS), to be used by CME employees fielding reports of elder deaths. In phase two, the ESDFS was implemented in three counties for a six-month data collection period. An expert panel reviewed a subsample of cases to assess whether CME investigators made appropriate decisions to investigate or not.

Access Notes

  • These data are part of NACJD's Fast Track Release and are distributed as they were received from the data depositor. The files have been zipped by NACJD for release, but not checked or processed except for the removal of direct identifiers. Users should refer to the accompanying readme file for a brief description of the files available with this collection and consult the investigator(s) if further information is needed.

  • One or more files in this data collection have special restrictions ; consult the restrictions note to learn more. You can apply online for access to the restricted-use data. A login is required to apply.

    Access to these data is restricted. Users interested in obtaining these data must complete a Restricted Data Use Agreement, specify the reasons for the request, and obtain IRB approval or notice of exemption for their research.

    Any public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.

Dataset(s)

Dataset
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Study Description

Citation

Mosqueda, Laura. Coroner Investigations of Suspicious Elder Deaths; 2008-2011 [California]. ICPSR33742-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2017-03-27. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR33742.v1

Persistent URL: https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR33742.v1

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Funding

This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (2008-MU-MU-0021)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    autopsy, coroners, death records, decision making, elder abuse, eldercare, intervention

Smallest Geographic Unit:    county

Geographic Coverage:    California, United States

Time Period:   

  • 2008--2011

Date of Collection:   

  • 2008--2011

Unit of Observation:    county, individual, cases

Universe:   

Coroner/medical examiner (CME) offices in California; the CME investigators and staff that worked there from 2008-2011; and any cases of deceased elders reported to three California counties from May through November of 2011.

Data Type(s):    administrative records data, medical records, survey data

Data Collection Notes:

These data are part of NACJD's Fast Track Release and are distributed as they were received from the data depositor. The files have been zipped by NACJD for release, but not checked or processed except for the removal of direct identifiers. Users should refer to the accompanying readme file for a brief description of the files available with this collection and consult the investigator(s) if further information is needed.

The qualitative data are not available as part of this data collection at this time.

Syntax files for the comprised variables in both datasets are included in the release.

Methodology

Study Purpose:   

The purpose of this study was to gather information on the decision-making process of the coroner/medical examiner (CME) offices who are charged with investigating suspicious elder deaths and then to create an intervention to augment the decision-making process and pilot test it in CME offices.

Study Design:   

The study consisted of two collection phases:

Phase 1: The first step was to use information from the California County Coroner's Offices to compile data on elder deaths and understand the processes employed in decision making. This data came from case data shared by participating coroner/medical examiner (CME) offices, publicly available data on elder deaths, and both phone and in-person interviews with CME investigators from participating offices. The second step was to develop a 'best practice' brief questionnaire or Elder Suspicious Death Field Screen (ESDFS), to assist county coroner's offices in their decision making regarding taking jurisdiction and investigating an elder death.

Phase 2: This phase consisted of the pilot test and evaluation of the effectiveness of the ESDFS in a selected subset of California counties. One-on-one training of each CME Investigator on the use of the ESDFS was performed and then ESDFS was implemented in three counties for a six-month data collection period. An expert panel known as Longitudinal Experts All Data (LEAD) panel reviewed a subsample of cases to assess whether CME investigators made appropriate decisions to investigate or not. Two alternative Satisfaction Surveys were also used: one for CME Investigators who used the ESDFS throughout the pilot study and the other (the Alternate Satisfaction Survey) for those who failed to use the ESDFS or stopped using it before the end of the pilot study. The latter survey administered in the form of a structured interview consisted largely of questions about barriers to implementation of the ESDFS. To wrap up the project, satisfaction surveys were administered on site as structured interviews with the investigators. The interviews were recorded and transcribed.

Sample:   

In phase one, 46 of the 58 coroner/medical examiner (CME) offices in California and the staff that worked in them were interviewed. This sample also includes elder death statistical information that was obtained from 30 of the 46 counties that participated in the phone interviews.

In phase two, elder deaths reported to participating CME investigators in 3 counties in California were used and the staff who worked at these counties were surveyed and interviewed.

Time Method:    Cross-sectional

Mode of Data Collection:    face-to-face interview, paper and pencil interview (PAPI), telephone interview

Data Source:

Public death certificates

Autopsy Reports

Interviews with coroner/medical examiner investigators

Description of Variables:   

Coroners.Database.sav: This dataset contains a total of 168 variables and 46 cases. It represents phase 1 of the project and consists of the 46 coroner/medical examiner offices in California. The variables include:

  • Demographics of coroner/medical examiner: age, sex, education, and work experience.
  • Demographic statistics of deceased elder: size of males/females group; size of married, divorced and single groups; education levels; ethnicity; and race.
  • Agency information: number of forensic pathologists and nurses, type of agency, number of investigations, location of office, whether screening tool is used, whether agency has an elder death review team and whether interest of prosecutors influences death investigation.
  • County Demographics: population of county, elder population in county, total number of elder deaths in county, number of elder deaths investigated, number of investigations that included an autopsy and total number of homicide cases.
  • Investigation information: place of death, whether an arrest was made, whether there was insufficient evidence, whether perpetrator was identified, and criminal charges outcome.

ESDFS database.sav: This dataset contains a total of 118 variables and 115 cases. It represents phase 2 of the project and consists of the completed sample of cases from the 3 sites that were administered the ESDFS. These variables include:

  • Demographic of deceased elder: age, gender, and race.
  • Scene of death information: reporting party, location of death, whether conditions were sanitary, whether unpleasant smell was present, whether scene was cluttered, and overall scene condition.
  • Involvement of a caregiver: whether there was a responsible caregiver, relationship of caregiver to the decedent, and level of care.
  • Condition of body: whether decedent had matted hair, unpleasant odor, dirty untrimmed nails, feces present, urine soaked diaper/clothing, was very thin, had broken skin, had marks/discoloration, and overall body condition.
  • Activities of daily living (ADLs) variables: whether decedent was impaired by activities such as bathing, getting dressed/undressed, toileting, transferring, ambulation, and eating and hydration.
  • Investigation information: whether various body parts were viewed by reporting party, whether there was evidence of neglect, appropriateness of investigation, and degree of certainty.
  • LEAD variables: whether the investigative information was properly followed up on, including the appropriateness of investigation, degree of certainty in findings and whether there was a consensus on evidence of neglect.

This study also included statements compiled from interviews of CME investigators about what influences their decision to investigate an elder death. These statements describe their reliance on medical personnel to recognize evidence of abuse or neglect; the value of Adult Protective Services information; financial abuse information relating to an elder death; physical evidence of neglect such as bed sores; living conditions; age and medical history of the decedent; and whether the case was able to be prosecuted were considered. This data is not available in the current release.

Response Rates:   

Phase 1: 46 of 58 county coroner/medical examiner offices responded.

Phase 2: Eighteen Satisfaction Survey Interviews were conducted. Two of these were with CME Investigators who participated throughout the pilot study. The other 16 were Alternate Satisfaction Surveys with CME Investigators who did not participate fully although they were trained to use the ESDFS at the beginning of the pilot study. The remaining ten trained CIs were not available to be interviewed.

Version(s)

Original ICPSR Release:   2017-03-27

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