Difference Wiki

Pathologist vs. Coroner: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on October 5, 2023
Pathologist is a medical doctor specialized in diagnosing diseases through the examination of tissue and body fluids. Coroner is a public official responsible for investigating sudden, unnatural, or unexplained deaths.

Key Differences

A Pathologist is a medically trained professional, often holding an M.D. or D.O., who specializes in the diagnosis of diseases and conditions through the examination of bodily fluids, tissues, and organs. They often work in labs and may also specialize in areas like forensic pathology, hematopathology, or molecular pathology.
Coroner, on the other hand, is a public official often elected or appointed to investigate deaths under certain circumstances, such as those that are sudden, violent, or unexplained. Unlike pathologists, coroners aren't necessarily medically trained; their educational background varies by jurisdiction. Some may have medical degrees, but many are legal professionals or even laypeople.
Both pathologists and coroners play roles in death investigations, especially in forensic settings. However, the depth and nature of their involvement differ. A pathologist may conduct autopsies to determine the cause of death and may be called upon as an expert witness in court. The Coroner's role, conversely, is broader and often involves liaising with law enforcement, conducting preliminary investigations, and deciding whether an autopsy is necessary.
Grammatically, "pathologist" and "coroner" are both nouns. The term "pathologist" can be used more broadly, as pathologists can work in many different medical fields beyond just forensic medicine. "Coroner" is more specific and is usually limited to the context of death investigations.

Comparison Chart

Ducational Requirement

Medical degree and specialized training
Varies; not necessarily medical training


Diagnosis of diseases through tissue and fluid examination
Investigate certain types of deaths

Grammatical Role



Can specialize in various forms of pathology
Primarily involved in death investigations


Medical institutions, labs
Designated jurisdictional areas

Pathologist and Coroner Definitions


Forensic Expert
The forensic pathologist determined the cause of death.


Public Official
The coroner is elected in some jurisdictions.


Lab Expert
The pathologist ran a series of tests to rule out any malignancy.


Death Investigator
The coroner ruled the death as accidental.


Medical Specialist
The pathologist confirmed the diagnosis after examining the biopsy.


The coroner works closely with law enforcement agencies.


Disease Diagnostician
The pathologist identified the bacterial strain causing the infection.


Legal Authority
The coroner has the authority to order an autopsy.


Tissue Analyst
The pathologist studied the cellular structure of the tumor.


Records Keeper
The coroner maintains death records for the county.


The scientific study of the nature of disease and its causes, processes, development, and consequences. Also called pathobiology.


A public officer whose primary function is to investigate any death thought to be of other than natural causes.


The anatomic or functional manifestations of a disease
The pathology of cancer.


A public official who presides over an inquest into unnatural deaths, and who may have (or historically had) additional powers such as investigating cases of treasure trove.


A departure or deviation from a normal condition
"Neighborhoods plagued by a self-perpetuating pathology of joblessness, welfare dependency, crime" (Time).


A medical doctor who performs autopsies and determines time and cause of death from a scientific standpoint.


An expert in pathology; a specialist who examines samples of body tissues for diagnostic or forensic purpose.


(Isle of Man) The administrative head of a sheading.


One skilled in pathology; an investigator in pathology; as, the pathologist of a hospital, whose duty it is to determine the causes of the diseases.


An officer of the peace whose principal duty is to inquire, with the help of a jury, into the cause of any violent, sudden or mysterious death, or death in prison, usually on sight of the body and at the place where the death occurred.


A doctor who specializes in medical diagnosis


A public official who investigates by inquest any death not due to natural causes


Can a pathologist perform autopsies?

Yes, especially those specialized in forensic pathology.

Do pathologists only deal with dead bodies?

No, pathologists also diagnose living patients through tissue and fluid samples.

Can pathologists testify in court?

Yes, particularly forensic pathologists.

Are pathologists surgeons?

No, they are specialized doctors but not surgeons.

Is a coroner always a medical doctor?

No, educational requirements for coroners vary by jurisdiction.

What does a coroner do?

A coroner investigates sudden, unexplained, or violent deaths.

Can anyone become a coroner?

It depends on jurisdictional requirements, which can vary.

Can a coroner arrest people?

No, a coroner's role is investigative, not law enforcement.

Do pathologists interact with patients?

Rarely, they mostly work in labs and communicate with other doctors.

How does a coroner differ from a medical examiner?

Medical examiners are always medical doctors, while coroners may not be.

Are pathologists involved in criminal investigations?

Some, known as forensic pathologists, are.

Do pathologists need a PhD?

No, but they need a medical degree and specialized training.

What does a coroner do if foul play is suspected?

They work closely with law enforcement and may order an autopsy.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons