"Unlike the living, when the dead speak, they do not lie."
As coroner, I must aver,
I thoroughly examined her
And she's not only merely dead,
She's really most sincerely dead!
"Here, death rejoices in teaching the living."
— Inscription commonly found in autopsy/anatomy theaters (usually rendered in Latin: Hic locus est ubi mors gaudet succurrere vitae.)
Also known as the Medical Examiner or ME, he or she tells the detectives how the victim died and hands them any interesting trace evidence. Typically, this professional is the detectives' first stop depicted after examining the crime scene such as in Law & Order
The coroner is typically depicted in crime shows as a middle-aged, dryly sardonic male whose daily handling of corpses has left him thoroughly desensitized to even the most horrible of deaths
. This is usually played for comic effect, such as having the coroner eat a sandwich while working,
or reacting calmly to a murder so gruesome it even freaks out the heroes. Many have a tendency to speak to the deceased, either in jokes or sympathy over a particularly violent death. This tends to be Truth in Television
. May or may not be involved in dismissing violent murders as suicides or accidents
; the role can also be filled by another member of law enforcement.
Note that in Real Life
the position of coroner may or may not be held by a medical doctor. In some jurisdictions both positions are held by the same person, but in others the coroner is a lawyer or paralegal who handles the paperwork, conducts inquiries, etc., while the medical examiner is a forensic pathologist who conducts the autopsies. In some areas, too, there aren't enough suspicious deaths to justify the cost of a full-time forensic pathologist; in these areas, a local surgeon or GP usually handles less suspicious cases while obvious murders are farmed out to freelance forensic pathologists. Also, in Real Life
most deaths reported to the coroner or medical examiner aren't investigated, since most deaths that have to be reported aren't suspicious deaths.
Interestingly, most forensic pathology residents these days are women; in twenty years, it's estimated that almost all medical examiners will be female.
Not to be confused with The Undertaker
, who has an entirely different job.
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Anime and Manga
- Runessa Magnus from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, a teenager and Teana's temporary partner for the Mariage case in StrikerS Sound Stage X. Handles autopsies and verification, she usually works behind the scenes.
- Dr. Harashaw of Ghost in the Shell: Innocence Notable for being a cybernetic pathologist - she's called in by Section 9 to look at "dead" cyber-bodies and determine how they, er, terminally malfunctioned.
- The rather depressed Dr. Knox of Fullmetal Alchemist averts the usual attitude of this trope. A former surgeon, he was forced to perform horrific medical experiments on Ishbalans during the war and chose to become a coroner after the war out of shame. Though he would never admit it, he is grateful that he gets to save Lan Fan and May Chang.
- For a few years, Mortimer Gunt in the Batman comics.
Films — Live-Action
- In the film Men In Black, Dr. Laurel Weaver (Linda Fiorentino).
- Taken to ridiculous extremes in the German comedy movie The Vexxer by the grossly incompetent medical examiner, Dr. Bedpan, who is having a children's birthday party in his morgue.
Dr. Bedpan: We've got painters in the flat. It's my son's eighth birthday, so we've moved the party here.
Inspector Even Longer: Why here? Where's your wife, then?
Dr. Bedpan: Over there, slab 207.
- In Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Van Helsing, played by Mel Brooks, manages to make interns faint out of pure disgust as he works on a body... and keeps SCORE of the interns that fainted!!!
- The Wizard of Oz: "As coroner, I must aver, I've thoroughly examined her...and she's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead!
- In the spoof movie Loaded Weapon 1, Dr. Joyce Brothers is the coroner investigating York's killing. In an amusing twist, she's portrayed as surly and insensitive:
Coroner: All right. This loser has taken the chicken shit way out and punched her own ticket.
- In V for Vendetta, Dr. Delia Surridge informs the police that V's victims were killed with commonly available poisons which are therefore untraceable. It turns out that she worked at Lark Hill an Evil Scientist, experimenting on the prisoners. She is killed painlessly by V in her sleep for her later remorse.
- The Wretched Ones has the coroner Jean and her sometimes assistant Mortimer have an entire conversation while she is performing an autopsy. Mortimer proceeds to take a nap in the morgue while Jean is examining a heart.
- Hey Arnold!: Arnold and Gerald once met a coroner during their search for a document that'd save their neighborhood. One of them opened a drawer that contained a corpse. The coroner wasn't even slightly disgusted by it, of course (a coroner who's disgusted by corpses would be like a carpenter who's disgusted by wood).