In 1877 the Legislature of Massachusetts passed "An Act to abolish the office of coroner and to provide for medical examinations and inquests in cases of death by violence." By the terms of this act the county commissioners in each county, except that of Suffolk, were called upon to "divide their several counties into suitable districts for the appointment of one medical examiner in each district;" and such examiner while appointed from a district, has the power to exercise his function in any part of the county of which his district is a portion. In practice, however, an examiner does not act in the district of another except in case of absence or disability of the latter. Examiners hold office for seven years and are appointed by the governor by and with the advice of the council.
The thirteen counties were divided into 68 districts, according to the distribution of