JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer
Reiling, Assistant Editor.
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.
THE PASSING OF THE CORONER.. JAMA. 2004;291(16):2026. doi:10.1001/jama.291.16.2026-c