Distinguishing Medical Examiners from Coroners

Medical Examiner vs Coroner

When deaths occur under suspicious circumstances, they must be examined or investigated by specially appointed officials. In some places, these officials are called coroners, while in others, they are referred to as medical examiners. This distinction can be confusing for some people, as they may not understand the differences between a medical examiner and a coroner. Although both officials may perform autopsies, there are notable differences between the two roles.


Historically, the government appointed an official to investigate suspicious deaths, and this person did not necessarily have to be a medical doctor. In many cases, the coroner was a politician or influential person with no knowledge of forensic or pathological investigations. Over time, coroners were increasingly required to have a medical background, although not necessarily specializing in pathology. This shift in requirements led to the gradual evolution of a separate system called the medical examiner system.

Medical Examiner

As the name suggests, a medical examiner is a trained doctor who specializes in forensics or pathology. This means that they have the specific training and knowledge necessary to deal with all aspects of accidental and suspicious deaths, such as murders. Typically, a medical examiner is in charge of a crime lab and investigates the cause of death in cases where it is difficult to determine how the person died. In a broader sense, they are professionals who perform autopsies on dead bodies to ascertain the causes and circumstances of death.

In rural areas or places with low populations, the coroner system still exists, as it can be challenging for the administration to find a pathologist or forensics expert to fill the role. However, as time has passed and technology has advanced, the coroner system has become increasingly obsolete, with medical examiners taking precedence over coroners.

Key Takeaways

  • The coroner system is older than the medical examiner system and continues to exist primarily in rural areas and some counties, whereas the medical examiner system is newer and gaining precedence over the coroner system.
  • Coroners are officials appointed to investigate suspicious deaths, although they may not have the required expertise. In recent years, coroners have increasingly been required to be doctors.
  • Medical examiners are doctors of medicine who specialize in pathology and forensics, making them experts in performing autopsies and determining the cause and circumstances of death.
Dmitri Ivanov
Dmitri Ivanovhttps://whats-different.com
Dmitri Ivanov, a writer and managing editor, was educated in Canada and holds a BS in Science. Dmitri loves doing research, writing, and teaching various courses.


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