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Cause of Death

What really happened?

By Mark GagnonPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
Cause of Death
Photo by Milo Bunnik on Unsplash

It’s a given that everything, be it mountains, oceans, rivers, plants, animals, and people die. No matter what it is, at some point, it will cease to exist. If birth and death are the only constants, why are we so interested in what caused a particular death? Why people seem to be fascinated with the cause of death rather than simply accepting the fact that he or she died, is a mystery. Morgan couldn’t answer that question, but he was glad people had such morbid curiosity.

Morgan spent his life working with dead people. Being a coroner in a large city with an overabundance of gang violence, drug and alcohol addiction, plus a plethora of naturally occurring maladies, kept his schedule full. The legal system needed to know how a victim died. Even the obvious causes — gunshot, stab wound, clubbed to death — all needed to be listed and categorized for the courts.

Grieving relatives wanted to know why poor uncle, grandma, father, cousin, or friend passed away at such a young age. After all, he was only 85. For these people, Morgan would put on his best all-knowing white coat demeanor and explain that poor Uncle Jim died of a pulmonary embolism, or an abdominal aortic aneurism, or many other “isms”. The bereft relatives would walk away with tears in their eyes wondering, what did he say, or that sure sounded bad? I hope he didn’t suffer.

Morgan secretly enjoyed leaving people bedazzled by his mastery of medical terms that sounded impressive but meant very little to the average person. Imagine your mechanic telling you that your car stopped running because the fuel line had an embolism, instead of saying the line was clogged with dirt. Maybe your tire has an aneurism rather than a bulge in the sidewall. A dirty air filter should be called pneumoconiosis.

The part of his job Morgan disliked the most was testifying in court. He would testify that the victim died of blunt force trauma to the posterior portion of the skull possibly inflicted by a round, heavy metal object. The prosecutor would then reduce his carefully crafted sentence to, “In other words, doctor, the victim was hit in the back of the head with a hammer, caving in his skull.” Morgan would be forced to say, “That’s correct.” This exchange was followed by, “Nothing further, your Honor.” Not Morgan’s finest hour.

Naturally, the defense attorney couldn’t let a definitive statement like that go unchallenged.

“Doctor, are you sure it was a hammer that caused the victim’s death?

Morgan would noticeably stiffen at the idea that someone with no medical training had the audacity to question his findings and reply, “I am certain that a hammer made the indentation in the skull.”

“I see. Are you sure the deceased was struck by someone using a hammer and not the other way around? Is it not possible that the departed might have fallen backward, striking his head on a hammer that someone had carelessly left lying on the floor?”

“Well, sir,” replied Morgan acidly, “I imagine anything is possible. However, based on the angle of impact, what you are proposing is highly unlikely.”

With a dismissive wave, the defense attorney turns to the jury.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it is possible. No further questions, your honor.”

Morgan was dismissed without getting the opportunity to rebut the last statement.

Frustrated and angry that his words were twisted out of context, Morgan took a walk in the nearby park to cool down. He was intent on the shapes of several clouds overhead when he stepped on a banana peel that someone had carelessly tossed on the ground. Morgan slipped and fell, hitting his forehead on a boulder, killing him instantly. The new coroner said the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the frontal cortex of the brain. The actual cause of death was not watching where he was going.


About the Creator

Mark Gagnon

I have spent most of my life traveling around the US and the globe. Now it's time to draw on these experiences and create what I hope are interesting fictional stories. Only you, the reader, can tell me if I've achieved my goal.

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Comments (2)

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  • JD Pernoste and Anneliese Dahl2 months ago

    Indeed some people lose their connection with their humanity. I love your sense of irony. - Anneliese

  • Tina D'Angelo2 months ago

    What a great way to end this story. He richly deserved his demise. You made a sad night happy!

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