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JAMA 100 Years Ago
April 28, 2004


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2004;291(16):2026. doi:10.1001/jama.291.16.2026-c

After four years of strenuous effort the Elsberg bill abolishing the office of coroner in Greater New York has been passed, its passage having been materially aided by an emergency message from the governor. The bill does not affect the coroners now in office, but no successors will be elected. The only powers that remain to the coroners are those of investigation. They may collect evidence and take testimony to aid the magistrate and district attorney. In addition to the valid reasons which have been previously given THE JOURNAL for the passage of such an act, there will be a saving in New York City of not less than $60,000 per year, beside putting an end to the ignorant and corrupt practices which have grown up under the late evil system. Some of the political coroners, it is said, have been unable to speak intelligible English, and miscarriages of justice have occurred on this account. How deeply this lon-continued [sic] abuse had established itself is evidenced by the fact that the bill was introduced and beaten in four legislatures before its final passage. Under the present law there is provided a chief medical examiner and six medical examiners for Manhattan Borough, four for Brooklyn, three for Queens, and two each for the boroughs of Bronx and Richmond. They are to be physicians appointed by the mayor, as far as practicable, from the coroner's physicians now in office. The medical examiners are to form a part of the health department, their duties being to make reports in all suspicious deaths to the magistrate, and if the examiner is not satisfied with the result of the examination as to the cause of death he is to invite the district attorney, and then make an autopsy in the presence of that officer and of a policeman. The people of the city of New York are to be congratulated on the departure of this antiquated relic of monarchical government.

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