Coroners Should Be Abolished
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May 8, 2021: The article discusses the difference between a Medical Examiner and a Coroner in the US, and advocates for the elimination of the later position. The article mostly discusses this mostly in regards to Covid-19 pandemic, and the potential that large numbers of covid-related deaths may have been intentionally under-reported, for political reasons.

A Medical Examiner is a physician specializing in forensic pathology, who performs post-mortem investigations, rules on and reports the cause of death. They are generally board-certified, trained professionals. They are employed in a little less than half the United States, with most areas being served by a coroner instead.

A Coroner could be seen as sort of the “civilian” or "amateur" equivalent of a medical examiner. I'm sure most actual coroners would take offense at that description, but in most jurisdictions, the coroner is not required to be a physician, nor be trained in forensic pathology. The only requirements are often age and a lack of a criminal record. It’s often a political position, voted into power in a public election. So not only do you run the risk of incompetence or ignorance, but also the potential that they might be subject to political pressure from a Sheriff, Mayor, District Attorney, Governor, etc. In some jurisdictions, the Sheriff is also the Coroner, a position formally known as Sheriff-Coroner.

Some states have both a Medical Examiner system and separate countywide elected Coroner positions.


Game and Story Use

  • If your story is all about a local conspiracy or coverup, and you want the setting to facilitate that skullduggery, it's probably best to set the tale in a jurisdiction with coroner. They are well positioned to interfere or obstruct with the PCs investigation. It may be hard for the PCs to determine if the coroner's inteference is innocent incompetence, mundane politicking, or something more sinister.
  • A mixed-system jurisdiction might make for interesting gaming and storytelling. You get a highly trained professional, and an elected official hoping to make a name for themselves, possibly with conflicting agendas.
    • The PCs could fill one of these rolls, and have the other as a dramatic foil or rival.
    • Or, if the PCs are private detectives (or just standard unliscensed protagonist trouble-makers with no authority whatsoever) they may have to carefully navigate the political landscape.
      • The ME is an ally that the PCs turn to when they need an expert medical opinion or the details of a mysterious death or crime scene. Their investigations are often hampered by the County Coroner, who wants quick solutions and tries to bury mysteries and maintain the masquerade for the benefit of their political allies.
      • Alternately, perhaps the Coroner is the patron of the PCs, a little out of their depth so they ask a lot of favors of/from the PCs. The ME, on the other hand, is stern no-nonsense type who thinks the PCs are suspicious, and is always trying to find the connection between the PCs and the Monster of the Week or other lethal problem.
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