I’m a forensic pathologist trained by Dr. Charles S. Hirsch, New York City’s chief medical examiner for 25 year including on 9/11. For 30 years, I’ve investigated deaths as a medical examiner and coroner. I’ve done thousands of autopsies and testified in hundreds of hearings, depositions and trials. I’m confident that most of my opinions were correct, but I know I’ve sometimes been wrong—not because of malice or intentional misrepresentation but as a consequence of human frailty, scientific inadequacy and contextual biases that are impossible for anyone to completely eliminate. I’m not a hero of the kind portrayed in crime shows and mystery novels. I’m not a villain, either. I’m an imperfect, human practitioner of an inexact science. Unreasonable Certainty exposes my fallibility as a medical expert—my professional dark places
I’m a 1981 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Medicine and a diplomate of the National Board of Medical Examiners. The American Board of Pathology has certified my competence in anatomic, clinical and forensic pathology. For 30 years, I performed autopsies as a medical examiner and coroner in Illinois, New York, Florida and Colorado. I had the authority to investigate and determine the cause and manner of death whenever someone died of known or suspected violence, whether accident, suicide or homicide. I had jurisdiction over deaths in custody, deaths on the job, deaths by poisoning, deaths under suspicious circumstances and deaths that were sudden and unexpected or unattended by a medical practitioner.
Unreasonable Certainty's focus is forensic medicine’s limitations. I emphasize what I don’t know, the questions I can’t answer and the things I once knew that turned out to be wrong. Death investigation is a search for the truth about how people die, when they die and the manner in which they die. An understanding of the uncertainties inherent in forensic medicine is critical both to the search itself and to public perceptions of the validity and fairness of the process.
“An addictively written, thorough coroner’s chronicle.”
– Kirkus Reviews
The art of forensic medicine from a veteran medical examiner.
In her riveting and frank chronicle, forensic pathologist Huser dispels many common misperceptions portrayed in contemporary entertainment media about the field of death investigation. With descriptive grace, the author affably escorts readers along through her formative years as a pathology resident at the Methodist Medical Center of Illinois in Peoria performing autopsies and determining the manners of death in a mélange of cases. Huser introduces a brilliant array of medical authorities and others whose stories energize the narrative and offer personal anecdotes of occurrences in the field that became learning experiences for the author as she advanced through her years as a pathologist. She also reviews cases that proved discouraging, suspicious, and perplexing and explores the frustrating “feeling of helplessness and failure and the sting of the surgeon’s scorn.” Descriptions of corpses in various states of disease and decay are graphic but accurate representatives of a coroner’s work. Some details will surprise readers: a majority of pathologists don’t like to do autopsies, and some even believe them to be “largely a waste of time.” Other chapters address the heartbreak of sudden infant death syndrome and child abuse, drug dependency, probing for bullets in body cavities, as well as the author’s relationship with her heart-disease–addled father and her fascination with forensic toxicology. Because Huser never skimps on the grisly details of subjects like suicides or a particularly horrifying, meticulously portrayed rape case, her medical memoir is not for the squeamish. For those with stronger constitutions, the collective educational benefits of the book are immense, and Huser’s in-depth, personal guide through forensic medicine will surely engross eager clinical students as well as death-investigation fans.
An addictively written, thorough coroner’s chronicle.
Page count: 328pp
Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017
The ring trilogy
Retired forensic pathologist
Favorite line from a book
Medicine's ground state is uncertainty. And wisdom--for both patients and doctors--is defined by how one copes with it.
Unexpected skill or talent
I'm an excellent cook.
Passion in life
My Yorkshire Terrier, Duffy
UNREASONABLE CERTAINTY: A MEDICAL EXAMINER ACKNOWLEDGES THE LIMITS OF LEGAL MEDICINE: Kirkus Star
UNREASONABLE CERTAINTY: A MEDICAL EXAMINER ACKNOWLEDGES THE LIMITS OF LEGAL MEDICINE: Named to <i>Kirkus Reviews'</i> Best Books, 2018
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