In New Orleans: How to Get Elected Coroner

Death, Sex & Money

By WNYC Studios

In New Orleans: How to Get Elected Coroner

Friday, 21 August

Dr. Jeffrey Rouse is New Orleans' coroner—a job he describes as the “interface between law and medicine.” But ten years ago, he was working in a lab studying the brains of people with PTSD, getting ready for a life in academia.

When the storm hit, Dr. Rouse and his family evacuated to Houston. A moment he caught on TV brought him back to the city. “I...remember being glued to the television and seeing a police officer that I knew on camera, crying,” he recalls. “And that was not this guy's temperament.” Armed with his background in psychiatry and a gun, Dr. Rouse hitched a ride back into the city with a reporter and set up a makeshift clinic inside a Sheraton hotel lobby to provide medical care to first responders.

Nine years later, he ran for coroner, which he calls “the most bizarre job interview a human being can ever go through.” After a year in office, Dr. Rouse talks about making controversial judgment calls in police shootings, working out of a temporary office in a converted funeral home, and writing condolence notes to every family after signing a death certificate. 

Click here to read a text version of this story on The Atlantic's site.

The New Orleans Forensic Center has been located in a temporary facility since Katrina.  (Rush Jagoe) A refrigerated truck storing bodies of decedents sits on the street alongside the coroner's office. (Katie Bishop)
-
-
Heart UK