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Annie Stebler Hopf-Autopsy (Professor Poirier, Paris) 1889.jpg

As coroner, I must aver,

I thoroughly examined her

And she's not only merely dead,

She's really most sincerely dead!
The Munchkin Coroner, The Wizard of Oz

"This is the place where death rejoices in teaching the living."
Dr. Donald Mallard, NCIS

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.

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.

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.

Examples of The Coroner include:

Anime and Manga

  • Runessa Magnus from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, 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, and is grateful that he gets to save Lan Fan and Mei Ching. Though he would never admit it.

Comic Books

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.



  • Subverted in the book The Westing Game. The dead man isn't really dead--in fact, the "corpse" is a wax dummy--and the coroner is in on the whole thing.
  • Dr. Kay Scarpetta, of the series by Patricia Cornwell. Before the series degenerated into total Writer on Board, she served as the Chief M.E. of Virginia, and had the MD/JD to back it up.
  • The coroner, Doctor Hugel, in Jed Rubenfield´s Interpretation of Murder, has been given the nickname 'The Ghoul' for the eagerness with which he performs his post mortems. He also gets this line:

 "Altogether a fine female chest. The heart and lungs — the perfect example of healthy asphyxiated tissue. Why — it was a pleasure to hold them in one´s hands!"

  • Dr. Ito in the Sano Ichiro series, a position that is especially tricky in Edo-period Japan as performing autopsies violates Shinto practices of the time. In addition, he uses forbidden Western medicine knowledge and techniques to do them, an issue which has already gotten him "exiled" to Edo Jail.
  • Dr Waldo Butters from The Dresden Files. He let's Harry and Murphy into the morgue and treats Harry's injuries when he can't go to the hospital. Also: "Polka will never die!"
  • In Athyra, the village physician Master Wag teaches young Savn how to examine a dead body to determine how it got that way.

Live-Action TV

  • Quincy, eponymous main character of Quincy (aka Quincy, ME).
  • Al Robbins (played by Robert David Hall) on the original (Las Vegas) CSI.
  • Alexx Woods (played by Khandi Alexander) on CSI: Miami, although she has now thankfully been Put on a Bus.
    • Later replaced by Tara Price, who was later replaced by the fairly goofy Tom Loman after getting busted for drug addiction.
      • Don't forget Shannon Higgins, who actually replaced Alexx...only to take one right between the eyes shortly after her debut. Ouch. Tara wound up replacing her shortly thereafter.
  • Dr Sheldon Hawkes in the first season of CSI: NY, replaced in season 2 by Dr Sid Hammerback when Hawkes decides to become a CSI himself. Hammerback has Cool Glasses. There's also been Dr. Evan Zao (who disappeared with no trace), Dr. Peyton Driscoll (who got Put on a Bus...YourMileageMayVary about that one) and Dr. Marty Pino (who showed up twice in season 2 before showing up again in season 5, having been fired from the coroner's office, become a gambling addict, and making the money for his gambling debts by make drugs out of dead drug users and selling it. He also happens to get his wife killed in that episode and ends up in jail by the end of it.
  • Most of the cast on Crossing Jordan.
  • Coroner Rick, on Stroker and Hoop, is a parodic version of this character.
  • During its thirteen year run, Inspector Morse went through a number of coroners and pathologists, with varying degrees of desensitisation.
  • The unfortunately-named Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum), NCIS.
  • The ever-cheerful George Bullard in Midsomer Murders (except for a brief spell when the ME was snarky replacement Dan Peterson).
  • On Law & Order and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Elizabeth Rodgers (Leslie Hendrix). On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Melinda Warner (Tamara Tunie).
  • On The X-Files, Dr. Dana Scully's specialty certification is in pathology; prior to and occasionally during her tenure in the eponymous unit, she taught forensic path at the FBI Academy in Quantico.
  • Non-standard personality type: Doug Murphy of Scrubs. Despite being a pathologist, or at least working in the morgue, he retains a very odd mix of loser and cloudcuckoolander. In fact, the reason he was shifted to the morgue is that he is a horrible doctor, having killed nearly all of his patients. This is what leads him to being such a great pathologist: he has seen nearly every way someone can die, because he probably caused it at one time or another. Still, he is seen forgetting where he left bodies, tagging patients before they've died, and playing Texas Hold'Em with a group of corpses.
  • Pushing Daisies has an (unnamed) coroner who lets the main characters into the morgue in every episode, complete with an incredibly dry wit and the tendency to be skeptical about any excuse he's given for needing to see the bodies. Word of God say he lets them in because he has a crush on Emerson.
  • On Tru Calling, Davis is completely desensitized to anything dead, but extremely squicked out by working on anyone living.
  • The Reality Show Doctor G, Medical Examiner, which bounces between the various Discovery Channel networks.
  • Dr. Lanie Parish in Castle.
  • Natalie Lambert from Forever Knight was a city medical examiner, although her work was only occasionally relevant to the plot.
  • Dr. Maura Isles of Rizzoli and Isles; also gets points for an amusing tendency not to notice which of the morgue refrigerators is for staff use.

  "Is this from the good fridge or the dead-people fridge?"

  • Gordy the Ghoul from Kolchak the Night Stalker. Ran a lottery based on the corpses time of death. Often bribed by Kolchak into giving him information.
  • Psych plays with the trope. Woody looks like the typical coroner... except he's full out a Cloudcuckoolander . He's predicted how Shawn and Gus will die, offered to hold organs in the freezer overnight (not for medical reasons), and when he woke up from a drunken stupor surrounded by a white powder he assumes his cocaine problem returned. But his autopsies are usually right, at least.
  • In Supernatural, a different one appears in many episodes (since they're moving all over the country working on cases) to explain to the Winchesters how the latest Victim of the Week met his or her gruesome end.
  • Dr Ogden in Murdoch Mysteries is more sensitive than most examples, but her occasional mild jokes over the bodies are enough to make the straitlaced Murdoch uncomfortable. (And not for the usual reason being around Dr Ogden makes Murdoch uncomfortable.) Her temporary replacement at the start of Season 4, Dr Francis, maintains a constant stream of barbed sarcasm, apparently thinking Murdoch discovers murders just to annoy him.

Tabletop Games

  • Common character in Delta Green, examples include Dr. Jean Qualls and Dr. Joseph Gutierrez. There are also several pre-made Player Character templates for M.E.

Video Games

  • Membrillo from the game Grim Fandango is a traditional example, down to the dark sense of humor. Well, aside from the fact that since he works in the Land of the Dead, the "corpses" he deals with are those who've been "sprouted" and are thus Deader Than Dead...

 Membrillo: The secret to my happiness, Manuel, is I have the heart of a twelve year old child. I keep it in a jar over here. Would you like to see it?

Manny: No.

Membrillo: Sorry, old coroner joke.

(Membrillo translates as "Quince" — surely a nod to Quincy?)

  • In a skit, Jade in Tales of the Abyss will mention that as a boy, he wanted to become a doctor... of pathology. As an adult, he joined the military instead, but still retained The Coroner's unflappability and dark sense of humour.