Illinois Coroner's Creed
Birth and death are the
only two universal human experiences.
Birth is the most
important biological event in the life of any human being. If it does not
occur. there is no being. If there is no person, no legal rights and duties
arise, for the law relates to the rights and duties of living people, not
Death, on the other hand, is the most important legal
event for all human beings. When it occurs, all legal rights and duties
devolving upon the person during his life span in a civilized jurisdiction are
terminated. All persons with whom the deceased had legal relations at that
moment in time are also directly affected by the occurrence of death.
Moreover, both the deceased and the survivors may be greatly affected legally
by how death occurred, what actually happened, why it occurred, and precisely
when it occurred. Above all, who died must be absolutely determined, and where
death occurred is positively required for legal jurisdiction over the
descendent is based upon a geographical location. The law becomes extremely
active when a person dies. Wealth is redistributed. Contracts are altered. A
wrongful death may give rise to tortious claims. Tax obligations are always
present. Public social benefits and private insurance policies are paid.
Criminal laws may be involved. Creditors must be satisfied, and debtors
located. Spouse and children, heirs and next-of-kin have their attachments
rearranged. It is not surprising that for centuries the sovereign state has
had an overriding interest in the death of its subjects or citizens. The
Office of the Coroner, or the Office of Medical Examiner, along with the
state-licensed physician is legally charged with significant duties answering
the pertinent questions relating to death: Who, Where, When, What, How, Why.
Only when these questions have been answered correctly can all the proper
legal issues arising at death be effectively handled for the proper
administration of justice.
Although the legal aspects of death are most
important, certainly the religious and humanitarian heritages of a civilized
society also command a deep concern over the death of a human being. The
spiritual faith in a religion as well as the humanitarian concern for a fellow
human being demand correct answers to the question of death: Who, Where, How,
When and Why? Human death obligates the living to acquire accurate facts on
which to apply just laws for each deceased member of the human race.
obligation for proper death investigation is mandatory for legal and
religious/humanitarian satisfactions in the human society. Let those
responsible for death investigations take heed, that they labor not only for
the State, but also for God.
The American Academy of Forensic
Sciences, "Death Investigation and Examination", The Forensic Sciences
Foundation Press. In part, this book was supported by a grant from the
National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Assistance, Research and
Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice. Permission given to ICA by Kenneth S.
Field, M.B., Chairman, Board of Trustees, The Forensic Sciences Foundation,
April 22, 1988.