Is there a doctor in the house?

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Is there a doctor in the house?

Some experts criticize elected coroner system, which requires no medical experience
Dr. Carol Huser was La Plata County’s coroner for 10 years until retiring last week. Huser is a forensic pathologist, but state law does not require a coroner to have a medical degree, a fact that has sparked debate about whether a coroner system is better than a medical examiner system.
Dr. Carol Huser displays tools she uses performing autopsies.
Hooks on a door hold aprons for Dr. Carol Huser and any guest who might attend one of her autopsies.
The beginnings of forensic pathology

Forensic medicine began thousands of years ago in response to epidemics of suicide.

Some cultures believed that people who took their own lives possessed evil spirits, and their bodies needed to be burned or families needed to be expelled from villages, according to Medicolegal Investigation of Death, a textbook about pathology and crime investigation.

In ancient Greece, suicide was considered an offense against the gods because people were considered servants of the gods and self-destruction deprived the gods of one’s services.

Someone needed to render an opinion about the cause of death to determine whether a person’s body should be burned or funeral rights should be denied.

Thus forensic pathology was born.

The coroner system dates back to the 12th century in England. People were assigned to investigate manner of death and collect death taxes. The system was more or less adopted in the United States.

In the 1800s, it was determined that physicians would be best suited to determine cause of death. Maryland and Delaware were the first to adopt a medical examiner system, in which doctors oversee forensic death investigations.

Most other states adopted similar models through the years, but the transformation never reached Colorado.

It since has become commonplace to investigate unexpected or suspicious deaths.

Autopsies, a highly specialized surgical procedure to determine cause and manner of death, can help reveal if someone was murdered or committed suicide, if someone died of natural causes or a drug overdose.

By examining the bodies of victims killed in automobile crashes, the public can better understand mechanical hazards that exist in cars.

Even identifying the specific cause of “natural deaths” – cancer, infections or heart disease – can inform family members of potential risks and enable them to take preventive measures.

Dr. Carol Huser, a forensic pathologist who served as La Plata County coroner for nearly 10 years, said she is a strong believer in autopsies.

“When someone dies, you have one chance to answer questions,” she said. “If they’re not answered then, they never will be.”



shane@durangoherald.com

Is there a doctor in the house?

Dr. Carol Huser was La Plata County’s coroner for 10 years until retiring last week. Huser is a forensic pathologist, but state law does not require a coroner to have a medical degree, a fact that has sparked debate about whether a coroner system is better than a medical examiner system.
Dr. Carol Huser displays tools she uses performing autopsies.
Hooks on a door hold aprons for Dr. Carol Huser and any guest who might attend one of her autopsies.
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