What is a Coroner?

What is a Coroner? While a Medical Examiner (ME) is required to be a physician, certified by the American Board of Pathology in the medical specialty of Forensic Pathology, and experienced in the Forensic Sciences, the Coroner is usually not a physician, and is not trained in medicine. They act as an extension of the Medical Examiner’s Office, who is empowered to conduct an inquiry into the manner or cause of death, and to investigate or confirm the identity of an unknown person who has been found dead. The word coroner is derived from Middle English corowner, coronour, a local officer of the crown charged with supervision of royal pleas. The Crown Officer, or “Crowner”, became coroner.

Across the US, coroners are usually elected laypersons who may or may not have medical training, depending on local statutes, while some may be appointed. For the 24 counties in New York that have Medical Examiners instead of coroners, they may use private and not-for-profit hospitals. However, there are only a few counties in New York that operate their own facility autopsy services (autopsy, toxicology, morgue, and cold body storage) in-house: Erie, Monroe, Onondaga, Westchester, New York City, Suffolk, and Nassau counties. All other counties use a coroner system and subcontract the autopsies to the counties that have an ME.

I ran for Coroner back in 2008 in Genesee County, but did not win. Maybe someday I’ll try again.