Unnatural Death

by Dr. Michael Badenwith Judith Adler Hennessee. Random House,$17.95. Dr. Baden is a medical examiner, or, in cases of unnatural death, a forensic pathologist, and he is concerned about the inadequate use made of his specialty. He points out that “the United States has no systematic, comprehensive method of certifying death. There are fewer than three hundred full-time pathologists in the entire country, not nearly enough to handle the number of deaths that fall into our province.” If one works out Dr. Baden’s statistics, each of these pathologists would have to deal with about 530 cases a year—an impossible load—to cover the deaths that demand investigation. The doctor goes on to describe instances, well publicized or obscure, in which proper medical examination either convicted a criminal or prevented a miscarriage of justice. These accounts, which include peripheral information such as the fact that looting regularly occurs at airplane crashes, are interesting in themselves and well support the author’s plea for more attention to his neglected field.