Medical Examiner vs Coroner
There are deaths that are not natural and taking place in suspicious circumstances, leading to the bodies of dead persons being examined or investigated by officials specially deputed for this purpose. These are sometimes, in some places, referred as coroners and at some places as medical examiners. This is confusing to some, as they cannot make out the differences between a medical examiner and a coroner. Though either official may be seen performing an autopsy, there are differences between the two officers that will be highlighted in this article.
In earlier times, government appointed an official to look into the matter of suspicious death, and he did not need to be a medical doctor as in many cases he belonged to other professions. Mostly he was a politician or other influential person having no knowledge of forensic investigation or pathological investigations. However, with the passage of time, a coroner was required to be of medical background, not necessarily a pathology specialist. As a coroner in earlier times was not a doctor, a separate system called medical examiner system gradually evolved.
As the term implies, a medical examiner is a trained doctor who is a specialist in forensics or pathology. This means the person is especially trained and equipped with the knowledge to deal with all aspects of accidental and suspicious deaths (murders). Normally ME is in charge of a crime lab and investigates into the cause of death in cases where it is hard to tell how the person died. In a broad sense, he is a professional who is performing autopsy on dead bodies to ascertain the causes of death, as well as the circumstances of death.
Mostly, in rural areas or areas with low population the coroner system still exists as it is difficult for the administration to find a pathologist or forensics expert to fill this post. However, with the passage of time and technological advancement, the coroner system is getting obsolete and a medical examiner is getting precedence over a coroner.
What is the difference between Medical Examiner and Coroner?
• Coroner system is older than Medical Examiner system and in continuation only in rural areas and some counties while medical examiner system is the newer system gaining precedence over coroner system.
• Coroner is an official appointed to look into matters of suspicious deaths though he may not have the required expertise. However, in the last quarter of a century, a coroner is required to be a doctor.
• Medical Examiner is a doctor of medicine having specialized in pathology and forensics, to be an expert to perform an autopsy.
• The title of a coroner originated in England and continues till date though it is being taken over by the medical examiner system
• While a Medical Examiner is strictly a forensic pathologist, a coroner may come from any profession.
• A coroner identifies the next of kin, identifies the body with help from acquaintances of the deceased, and signs death certificate.
• A medical examiner’s basic job is to find the root cause of death, as well as circumstances of death.