Question Of Suicide In The 1800's

1890 Words 8 Pages
Did They, Didn’t They?: A Question of Suicide in the 1800’s Evansville, Indiana has changed drastically over the past 130 years, and as the city, along with the rest of the world, changes, so do the structures of many occupations. One such occupation that has changed would be that of the coroner, which is now primarily called a medical examiner. While the office of the coroner has always been an elected position, the requirements to fulfill the position have changed radically since then, thanks to the introduction of forensic medicine. They have become more restricted and refined in the way that decisions are made. These advancements have been the pathway into helping coroners and medical examiners make decisions into the causes …show more content…
Out of 511 inquiries where the coroner was brought in to investigate, there were over fifty instances where either Beard or Andrews, in their respective years in office, ruled deaths as suicide. In order to rule a death a suicide—or to be able to rule the cause of death in any case — Andrews and Beard arrived at the scene of the death and gave a physical examination of the deceased. From there, they took testimony from friends, family, neighbors, and/or strangers, basically, anyone that could attest to the death or the deceased’s state of mind prior to their death. From what was explained in the records, it seems as if neither coroner went as far as the physical appearance or what testimonies, if any, were given at the scene to determine the cause of death. For example, all that was ever listed in the death records were name, date and place of death, hair and eye color, clothing they wore, nationality, and if/what valuables they had on them at the time of their death or examination. In this time period, forensic medicine was on the brink of becoming a more widely used art in the United States. Actually, it was stated in the British Medical Journal that forensic medicine did not even exist before the nineteenth century, and it is unknown if either men were learned in the …show more content…
Scientists were constantly learning new things about the human body at this time that could aid greatly in the investigations into causes of death. While forensic medicine was still in its early stages, there were coroners all over the world who were using the same testimonies and observations that the local Vanderburgh County coroners were using at the same time. In today’s medical world, the Center for Disease Control has set standards for ruling deaths as suicide, among other causes. The standards set include a look into the deceased’s mental and physical capacities and characteristics. They also take into account the results from pathological (the autopsy), toxicological, and investigatory tests. Other criteria include past verbal or written threats or attempts at suicide, expressed feelings of hopelessness or depression, and preparing for death. Medical examiners turn to these guidelines more than their first impressions of the deceased upon observation and investigation, as well as testimonies. Using these suggestions helps give coroners and medical professionals a more clear-cut vision of when to rule a death a

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