The Coroner: A Historical Sketch

The specialized field in which the skills of medical science are applied to serve the needs of law and justice is called legal or forensic medicine.

Legal medicine is so intimately associated with human conduct that its development may be considered contemporary with that of the social development of man, and particularly with the recognition or punishment of crime. Biblical laws made a distinction between mortal and dangerous wounds and had laws relating to the subject of public medicine. The laws of ancient Greece and Rome demonstrate evidence that some of the more important medicolegal problems were recognized. For example, Suetonius recorded that the body of Julius Ceasar was examined by a physician named Antisius, who declared that out of 23 wounds inflicted, the one which penetrated the thorax was the cause of death.

The Justinian Code (529-533 A.D.) required the opinion of a physician in certain cases and is often credited as the origin of recognition of the correlation of law and medicine in effecting legal justice. In a penal code formulated by the Bishop of Bamberg in 1507 A.D., it was stipulated that a medical examination was to be made in all cases of violent death. In 1512, the Diet of Ratisbon, under Charles V, designated in the Constitution Carolina that in all cases where medical testimony could enlighten the judge or assist in the investigation of personal injury or murder, such evidence was to be required. Thus, in Europe, the specialty of legal medicine developed as a specific function of government.

In England, we find a somewhat different approach to the legal problems of criminal violence. Investigations were made by a representative of the King. The full title of this official was” “Custos Placitorum Coronae,” more popularly the “Coronator”. Eventually this title became Coroner. The exact date of the origin of this office in England is not known. Some believe that it originated under the Saxon Kings, perhaps as early as 958 A.D. Other dates of origin are presumed to be “soon after the conquest by William the Conqueror” (1066 A.D.) or “under Henry the First” (early in the twelfth century).

Article 20 of the Articles of Eyre (1194) provided for the election of one clerk to act as custodian of the pleas of the Crown. His relation to deaths by violence was secondary to other functions. When death resulted from violence, it was customary to seize the property of the victim.

Also, objects producing accidental deaths were confiscated. These were sold and the receipts distributed as alms. These alms, knows as deodands, were meant to serve as a means of appeasing Godís wrath for the shedding of blood.

It is believed that William Penn, founder and Governor of Pennsylvania, appointed the first coroner in the American colonies in 1682. This appointment was made when a dead body was found on the banks of a river in Pennsylvania. The coroner was instructed to investigate the facts concerning the death, proceeding in the same manner as was customary in England except that the property of the dead person was to be held in trust for the heirs.

The OSCA Mission

  • To provide a professional organization for Ohio’s 88 Coroners. (Coroners being those licensed physicians who investigate sudden and/or suspicious deaths and perform autopsies in connection therewith as well as those licensed physicians who investigate such death but do not perform autopsies.)
  • To discuss various administrative, professional, ethical, et. al, matters affecting Coroners.
  • To establish a continuing education curriculum, to sponsor educational seminars and to exchange professional experiences.
  • To consider and encourage methods of improving and promoting the office of Coroner.
  • To further programs that enable the general public and other public officials to better understand/appreciate the vital role Coroners play in today’s society.
- Our Leadership Team

The OSCA leadership team is comprised of veteran industry professionals with the desire to advance the coroner’s offices of Ohio through the dissemination of  professional news, ideas, and events. OSCA leadership represents the industry in a professional and courteous manner, whether its in the State House or in public. The leadership team changes on a yearly basis. This years team is proud to serve the members of OSCA.

  • President:
    Scott W. Jarvis, MD
    Van Wert County Coroner
    140 Fox Rd. Suite F
    Van Wert, OH 45891
    Phone: 419-238-7727
    Fax: 419-238-7768
    Email: swjmd@bright.net
  • Vice President:
    Amy S. Jolliff, MD
    128 E. Milltown Rd. Suite 105
    Wooster, OH 44691
    Phone: 330-345-5891
    Fax: 330-345-5983
    Email: asjolliff@wayneohio.org
  • Secretary:
    James R. Patrick, MD
    Lucas County Coroner
    2595 Arlington Ave.
    Toledo, OH 43614
    Phone: 419-213-3900
    Fax: 419-213-3941
    Email: jrpatrick@lcco.co.lucas.oh.us
  • Thomas P. Gilson, MD
    Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner
    11001 Cedar Avenue
    Cleveland OH, 44106
    Phone: 216-721-5610
    Fax: 216-721-2559
    Email: tgilson@cuyahogacounty.us
  • Treasurer:
    David T. Applegatge II, MD
    Union County Coroner
    128 S. Main St.
    Marysville, OH 43040
    Phone: 937-645-4145
    Fax: 937-645-4148
    Email: dapplegate@co.union.oh.us
  • Directors:
    Term Expiring 2018
    Gary R. Beasley, DO
    Allen County Coroner
    101 N. Elizabeth Suite 510
    Lima, OH 45801
    Phone: 419-999-5700
    Fax: 419-222-0754
    Email: gbeasley@allencountyohio.com
  • Russell L. Uptegrove, MD
    Warren County Coroner
    406 Justice Dr. Suite 313
    Lebenon, OH 45750
    Phone: 513-695-1137
    Fax: 513-695-2979
    Email: russell.uptegrove@co.warren.oh.us
  • Pamela L. Lancaster, DO
    Ashtabula County Coroner
    25 W. Jefferson St.
    Jefferson, OH 44047
    Phone: 440-576-3550
    Fax: 440-576-1520
    Email: pamela.lancaster@ashtabulacounty.us
  • R. Alan Spencer, DO
    Noble County Coroner
    304 Main St.
    Caldwell, OH 43724
    Phone: 740-732-2339
    Fax: 740-732-2350
    Email: raspencer824@aol.com
  • Term Expiring 2019
    Darren C. Adams, DO
    Scioto County Coroner
    602 7th Street (courthouse)
    Portsmouth, OH 45662
    Phone: 740-529-1095
    Fax: 740-355-8352
    Email: coroner@sciotocounty.net

Regional Directors

  • Central – John A Gabis, MD – Ross County
  • Northeast – David M. Kennedy, MD – Mahoning County
  • Northwest – Douglas W. Hess, MD – Wood County
  • Southeast – Carl T. Ortman, MD – Athens Couty
  • Southwest – Lakshmi Sammarco, MD – Hamilton County