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Death Determiners

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If a person dies in the United States and is not in the care of a doctor, then any investigation into their cause of death will probably be conducted by a medical examiner or coroner. To qualify as a medical examiner, a person must be a physician and they are often board qualified in forensic pathology. In contrast, most states have only two qualifications for coroner: a person must be of legal age and have no felony convictions. Coroners are often elected while medical examiners are typically appointed to their position.  The editors of Scientific America recently argued in favor of eliminating coroners in favor of medical examiners. While I do agree with their position, this matter is worth considering within the context of political philosophy. From what seems to be a neutral standpoint, the editors are correct. If we take the view that the job of the death determiner (coroner or medical examiner) is to correctly determine the cause of death of a person, then they should be experts in that job. This would require adequate medical training and a lack of bias. But it can be argued that this standpoint is not neutral. After all, this position is based on a value judgment about what the death determiner should be doing. By the standards of other values, the purpose of the job could be quite different. This can be illustrated by considering two contexts that are extremely relevant today: COVID-19 deaths and deaths caused by law enforcement. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump and his fellows responded in accord with their lack of interest and lack of competence: they downplayed the pandemic and lied about it. With some notable exceptions, the right chose to politicize the pandemic to isolate and energize their base. They also effectively weaponized the pandemic against minorities, women and the lower economic classes. Honest and accurate reporting of COVID-19 deaths would have undercut the downplaying and exposed the lies. As such, it makes sense that the. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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