I like watching British police procedurals and a key person in those stories is the forensic pathologist who determines the cause of death and other particulars that help the investigators solve the crimes. These people are portrayed as highly trained, highly skilled medical professionals. I had assumed that in the US, the people who did similar work were similarly trained. Silly me. You would think that by now I would know better.
In this shocking investigation by John Oliver, I learned that in the US, there are two categories of people entrusted with this important task. One set are called medical examiners and that requires the person to have at least a medical degree. The other category are called coroners and many of these coroners are actually elected, and in some states coroners who perform autopsies to determine the cause of death need have no medical training at all. In Arkansas for example, the only qualification to be elected as a coroner is that one must be 18 years or older and not a felon. That’s it. Apart from the fact that people with no training whatsoever can become coroners, this leads to all manner of abuse as Oliver shows.
What this position needs are forensic pathologists, people with specific training in this work. But in many parts of the US, we have the election of people who may lack any of the skills required to satisfactorily carry out the duties of the office. It really has got out of hand.