A Value to Society
Medical examiners do much more than determine the cause and time of death -- they help bring closure and a sense of understanding to loved ones of the deceased.
Once a body has been signed over to a coroner or medical examiner, it remains in his or her legal possession until further arrangements are made. As such, the coroner's interactions with the family of the deceased play an important part in how they process the death of their loved one. In fact, it's often a medical examiner who's responsible in the first place for identifying and notifying the deceased's next-of-kin.
When you die, you more than likely hope to leave something of sentimental or financial value to a loved one. But what happens to items on your person -- such as your wedding ring, your photos, your jewelry and your cash -- when you die?
Well, if your remains have passed into the custody of a coroner or medical examiner, the good news is that your personal belongings are safe (and the bad news is that you've died suddenly and mysteriously). The medical examiner logs and oversees the custody of any items, valuables or cash on the body of the deceased, and he may take those items into account when determining the cause and time of death.
Not only do coroners serve as custodians of the deceased and their belongings, but they also serve as custodians of justice, as we'll discuss next.