A coroner is an elected or appointed official who is responsible for the investigation of unexpected or violent deaths. In many jurisdictions, the coroner's job has been replaced by a modern system of medical examiners, who are all traiend physicians. However, a coroner does not have to be physician and is authorized to retain a pathologist to do an autopsy when necessary. In cases where the cause of death is uncertain, or where the death appeared to be avoidable, the coroner may put together a jury to hear evidence on the cause of death so that the jury can determine the cause of death (natural causes, homicide, etc.) and make recommendations to prevent further deaths.
As a general rule, a death in a hospital while a patient is outside the emergency room is not considered to be a matter within the coroner's jurisdiction, although the coroner may investigate these deaths in certain circumstances.