Dr. Marcella, former chief medical examiner in Virginia, is a member of the National Academies of Science panel that issued a report recommending an overhaul of the country’s death investigation systems. (emphasis added)
Dr. Fierro wrote an extensive report, A Need For Trained Practitioners that was published by NPR. In her narrative Dr. Fierro illustrates the discrepancies in autopsy reports.
“Most errors are buried,” she says. “If a death isn’t recognized as being suspicious or is suspicious, say, for violence and it’s released as natural death, [then] it’s buried or cremated,
whatever the family wishes, never to rise again.”
Fierro sat on the blue ribbon panel when the National Academy of Sciences took a look at the death investigation system. The panel described coroners as the weak link.
“On their best day, if they do not have the training, the skills, the infrastructure, the facility, the access to forensic science, they can’t do a good job. It’s a question of competency. How can you train someone who is not a physician?”
Registered nurse, Amanda Powell worked many years in one of the nations busiest emergency rooms. Powell commented on the lack of qualification in the loosely organized and regulated death investigation industry where coroners are not required to have any degree in any subject matter.
“A medical degree isn’t absorbed through osmoses”, Ms. Powell stated, “it required years of study at a medical school, internship and work”.
Having spent years as an emergency room nurse, Ms. Powell said she has seen the good, the bad and the horrible, but nothing prepared her for the shock of learning there were states that do not require their coroner or medical examiner to be board certified medical doctors, pathologists and/or toxicologists. That these unqualified personnel are allowed to testify in court in homicide cases, declare manner and cause of death “two definitely different things”, according to Powell.
Then, there is the dilemma of diploma mills. For a small fee and sitting for a test, anyone who has a “currently valid, full and unrestricted license to practice medicine or osteopathy” can become ‘board certified’ in one or several fields. Such ‘boards’ offer board certification a variety of medical fields. These organizations do not require the applicant graduate from an approved medical school and have a diploma certifying additional training in their elected “expert field”.
“Until we see a complete overhaul of our country’s coroner system, thousands more innocent people will be wrongfully convicted for serious violent crimes. This will certainly weigh heavily in the debate over both the criminal DNA database and the abolition of the death penalty.”
- Editorial: Autopsy bill would be a fix, but we can do more – The Spokesman-Review (justiceforraymond.wordpress.com)
- Headlines that leave you scratching your head (justiceforraymond.wordpress.com)
- Jones Co. Coroner Resumes Body Removal For Doubled Fee | 13wmaz.com (justiceforraymond.wordpress.com)
- Missouri coroners question practices of forensics company operator (stltoday.com)
- Coroner records verdict of accidental death at inquest into death of Wales rugby fan Ben Thompson (walesonline.co.uk)
- Georgia coroners not reporting suicides, audit finds (chronicle.augusta.com)
- Second autopsy conducted on Limberios (toledoblade.com)
- Suit challenges NC medical examiner’s work (newsobserver.com)
- Audit: Coroners aren’t reporting all suicides (news4jax.com)
- Toddler who survived deadly Saudi Arabia car crash taken to morgue in body bag (metro.co.uk)