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October 5, 1929


JAMA. 1929;93(14):1067-1068. doi:10.1001/jama.1929.02710140033013

For the medical investigation that is so essential to the demands of criminal justice, two systems are in use in the United States. The first of these, which prevails throughout most of the country, makes use of the office of coroner, an office transplanted from Great Britain during the colonial periods of our history.1 This system places the responsibility for both the legal and the medical sides of any investigation relating to deaths into which the element of criminality may enter in the hands of an elective coroner, of whom no professional qualifications are usually required by statute. Such a system carries within itself all the elements making for inefficiency and failure.

The second system, in use throughout Massachusetts and in a few smaller political subdivisions, utilizes the office of medical examiner.2 It abolishes the office of coroner, transfers the legal duties of that office to already existing

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