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March 2, 1990

Unnatural Death: Confusion of a Medical Examiner

Author Affiliations

Rochester, NY

Rochester, NY


by Michael M. Baden with Judith Adler Hennessee, 209 pp, $17.95, ISBN 0-394-55486-3, New York, NY, Random House, 1989.

JAMA. 1990;263(9):1280. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440090118038

With the right presentation and push to the general reading public, this book could become a popular best-seller. It is, first of all, a "good read," fascinating and fast flowing and about subjects that interest nearly everyone. Mystery readers will love it. Everyone who has followed newspaper details on the deaths of prominent persons, such as President Kennedy and the Attica victims, will relive the events and, perhaps for the first time, find explanations for puzzling questions. The book, however, should not be mistaken simply for entertainment. In the midst of the fascinating reading, the authors dispense a good deal of reliable and important information about forensic medicine and the role of the medical examiner.

The centerpiece of the work is the medicolegal autopsy. The autopsy, once the crown of every pathologist's work, is now—I regret to say—on the decline; the greater number of autopsies are now done in cases