A coroner or medical examiner's chief duties are determining the cause of death. This is often done as part of a criminal investigation when homicide is suspected.
A medical examiner's role is traditionally more closely related to forensic pathology. He or she examines bodies and body parts, performs autopsies, and performs toxicology tests.
In contrast, a coroner leads investigations into the cause of a person's death. These professionals don't need medical training and do not necessarily perform the actual exams. Instead, they coordinate the efforts of other medical professionals to ensure the proper tests and examinations are completed in a timely fashion. Both coroners and medical examiners are responsible for signing the death certificate once a cause of death is determined.
Why doesn't a Coroner have to be a doctor?
A coroner doesn't have to be a doctor because he or she isn't responsible for performing any medical procedures on living people. Instead, these professionals are judicial agents whose primary purpose is to investigate the cause of death. They work with qualified medical professionals as well as law enforcement agencies. They also take custody of bodies and remove them from crime scenes and hospitals.
Can Medical Examiners work as regular doctors?
Medical examiners are medical doctors and have graduated from accredited medical schools. That means they possess the same level of knowledge as other physicians, yet they've chosen to focus on forensic pathology. Pathology is the medical specialty which identifies the cause of death in unexpected or unusual circumstances, including when a crime is suspected.
Can a Coroner be a doctor as well?
Yes. A coroner may also be a medical professional. In some small municipalities, it's common for a coroner to also be a medical examiner. Still, a medical license isn't a requirement for holding this position in general.