The Medical Examiner is responsible for conducting inquests for death cases in Allegheny County. A Medical Examiner's inquest is a formal hearing into the cause and circumstance of any death resulting from violence or occurring under conditions which give reason to suspect that the death may have been due to a criminal act or criminal negligence. The hearing is conducted to make a formal determination of the cause and manner of death to allow further legal proceedings.
Under Pennsylvania law, the Medical Examiner has the power of subpoena and attachment, and may compel any witness to attend an open inquest into any death within the Medical Examiner's jurisdiction. In addition to establishing the cause and manner of death and possible criminal liability, the open inquest serves as a forum to bring about changes in laws and regulations or to create public awareness of related health and safety issues.