Dr. Michael Baden: "The Role of Forensic Medicine in the Struggle for Justice: Medgar Evers to Michael Brown"
Edward Brown, Doctoral Candidate, Anatomy, Reviews Lecture by Dr. Michael Baden
By Edward Brown
Dr. Michael Baden
In recent years, the Sigma Xi Hawthorne Lecture Series has presented lectures by prominent scholars in the field of science. Doctoral candidate Edward A. Brown, Department of Anatomy, has
captured a few of these lectures in a series of summaries that will be included in this column periodically. A summary of a lecture by Dr. Michael Baden, former chief medical examiner, New York City, follows below.
One of the most touching aspects of the evening's talk was the introduction given by Dr. Michael Baden's daughter, Sarah Baden. Sarah expressed much admiration for her father and set the tone for a presentation of remarkable significance. Dr. Michael Baden worked for 25 years at the medical examiner's office in New York City, as well as 25 years with the New York State police department. Dr. Michael Baden began his talk by discussing the origin of forensic medicine, which dates back to 12th century England. He introduced the father of pathology, Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902), who believed that "the physician is the natural attorney of the poor." Continuing with the theme of justice for the unspoken, Dr. Baden spoke about instances during which members of the general public died unjustly. The first to be introduced was civil rights leader, Medgar Evers, who was 32 years old when he was assassinated in 1963. Dr. Baden thoughtfully explained the controversies surrounding the death of Evers, which led to the reopening of the trial where Dr. Baden was invited to provide an autopsy report. Dr. Baden discovered that, despite being buried decades earlier, Medgar Evers's body was nearly intact, which yielded an opportunity for Dr. Baden to reveal significant abnormalities within the case. Dr. Baden's findings resulted in justice for Medgar Evers.
Dr. Baden went on to contrast two very recent cases of black men being killed unjustly, that of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, due to police violence. Dr. Baden had a significant part in Michael Brown's case. He diagramed the trajectory of the bullets through Michael Brown's body that he identified during the autopsy. Dr. Baden explained that most families, upon meeting the forensic pathologist in these kinds of unexpected deaths, will ask regarding their loved ones, "Did they suffer?" Dr. Baden explained that the final bullet went through the top of Michael Brown's brain bringing a loss of sensation, and hence a release from any pain he might have been experiencing.
Dr. Baden shared his insights about another group of people who unfortunately experience unjust deaths -- those who experience severe mental health issues. Dr. Baden emphasized that efforts must continue to ensure proper training of police departments around the proper handling of those with mental health needs.
Daniella Greene, doctoral student, Clinical Psychology, contributed to the editing of this article.
~ end ~