cover image Unnatural Death: Confessions of a Medical Examiner

Unnatural Death: Confessions of a Medical Examiner

Michael Baden, Adller Hennessee. Random House (NY), $17.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-394-56982-6

The function of medical examiners is to conduct autopsies and determine causes of death; examiners must be expert in forensic pathology, as is Baden, former chief M.E. for New York City and now executive director of the New York State Police Forensic Sciences Consultant Unit. Writing with freelancer Hennessee, he delivers a sobering indictment of a system in which, he claims, fewer than a thousand physicians nationwide are qualified to conduct this work. Add to this pressures from police and politicians, note the authors, and it is almost miraculous that unnatural deaths are ever analyzed. The book begins with the case of John F. Kennedy, whose autopsy was allegedly mismanaged, and ends with the 1971 riots at a maximum security prison in Attica, N.Y., where Baden was called in to give a second opinion on the causes of deaths of prisoners and prison hostages; his controversial judgment placed primary blame on gunshot wounds administered by state troopers and corrections officers, rather than on beatings allegedly carried out by rebelling prisoners. (June)