BC forensic medicine





Dr. Butt is a medical doctor and highly qualified specialist in forensic medicine and pathology. He has served as chief medical examiner for the provinces of Alberta and Nova Scotia and also as president of the National Association of Medical Examiners in the United States. Until 2000, Dr. Butt had been a Professor/Associate Professor of Pathology for more than 20 years, most recently at Dalhousie University in Halifax. He has lectured at universities across Canada, as well as to police agencies in both Canada and the United States.

As the first appointee to the Medical Examiner System in Alberta and its founder, Dr. Butt developed the most modern and comprehensive death investigation system in Canada.  The extensive changes he initiated along with training programs he developed led to changes across North America in the investigation and certification of sudden death. He has been honoured by the International Association of Forensic Nurses for establishing nurses in the role death investigators. In 1984 Dr. Butt started the Alberta Medical Examiners Tissue Program, which served as a landmark policy in Canada for co-operation between a provincial medico-legal authority and the transplant community. Dr. Butt was also the principal investigator for Health and Welfare Canada in a fatal asthma study at the University of Calgary.

In Nova Scotia, Dr. Butt led the investigation and relief efforts following the crash of Swissair flight 111 in 1998. Butt’s job—identifying the fragments of human remains that were scattered across a large area of open water off the south coast of Nova Scotia—was a complicated task, requiring the most advanced techniques of DNA matching to make positive identifications. Working closely with the RCMP, the team eventually identified fragmented remains from all 229 people who died in the crash.

The magnitude of this disaster and Dr. Butt’s consideration of the grieving families forged many relationships. Dr. Butt has since spoken widely in North America to pathologists and other health care professionals about the need for compassionate understanding and good communication with the next of kin, who desperately want information about the people they have lost.


Investigation, Swiss Air Flight 111
Investigation, Swiss Air Flight 111

Dr. Butt has a history of firsts in forensic education in Canada. In 1976 he initiated the sudden death section of the major crimes investigation technique course at the Canadian Police College in Ottawa. He started the first post-graduate training program in forensic pathology in Canada at the University of Calgary in the 1970s, and promoted forensic nursing in Canada with short courses in 1994.  At the other end of the spectrum, Dr. Butt initiated lectures and a forensic museum for secondary school students and in 1993 began speaking about his field with grade four and five students.

Today, Dr. Butt is an internationally acclaimed speaker, known for his witty, direct style. He continues to address audiences in Canada and the U.S., including after-dinner talks on forensic case books and crime doctor themes.

For Dr. Butt’s detailed academic and professional qualities, visit the Curriculum Vitae page.


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