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  Wanna be a (PA) coroner? Just about anybody can - just win an election
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ContributorScottĀ³ 
Last EditedScottĀ³  May 27, 2009 09:20pm
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CategoryNews
MediaNewspaper - Philadelphia Inquirer
News DateWednesday, May 27, 2009 03:00:00 AM UTC0:0
DescriptionPhiladelphia Daily News

"CORONERS IN Pennsylvania are legally charged with investigating all violent, accidental, sudden and suspicious deaths.

In that job, they might have to autopsy and photograph bodies, examine death scenes, do toxicology tests, sleuth to identify nameless or decomposing corpses, give heart-breaking news to next of kin, interview witnesses and authorities, issue death certificates, order inquests, archive unclaimed bodies and belongings, and rule whether the death was criminal or otherwise.

You would think such duties would require the most stringent of credentials.

You would be wrong.

The only prerequisite to be a county coroner in Pennsylvania is to be a registered voter. That's because in 64 of the state's 67 counties, it's an elected position. (Philadelphia, Allegheny and Delaware counties appoint medical examiners, who are board-certified forensic pathologists.)

"In Pennsylvania, the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker can be the coroner," said Montgomery County Coroner Dr. Walter I. Hofman, whose own credentials fill nine pages of resume.

Pennsylvania does not, in fact, have coroners who are butchers, bakers or candlestick makers.

But there is a coroner who's a garbage hauler and former supermarket shelf-stocker (Huntingdon County's Ronald Morder). Another is an electrician (Juniata County's Lee Snyder). Others include a former unemployed steel worker (Cambria County's Dennis Kwiatkowski), former craft-store owner (Adams County's Patricia Felix), former machinist (Cameron County's Ted Walters) and former business-form printer (Bedford County's Sam Gordon).

To be fair, all of the above worked as emergency medical technicians or paramedics before becoming coroners."
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