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Georgia coroners not reporting suicides, audit finds

Sunday, May 5, 2013 1:30 PM
Last updated 6:50 PM
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ATLANTA -- County coroners across Georgia aren’t reporting suicides and all suspicious deaths to the State Medical Examiner’s Office as required by law, according to a recent state audit.

It also found that the office isn’t meeting its own target of issuing timely autopsy reports.

The Department of Audits and Accounts released its report last week as an update on an audit done in 2010. It noted that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which runs the Medical Examiner’s Office, had complied with most of the 2010 recommendations.

Auditors noted in 2010 that the local officials were glossing over certain deaths and recommended strengthening the law to require the reporting of all deaths to the state.

“GBI acknowledges that such cases may not be reported as required; however, they have not taken action to address the issue,” the latest audit notes.

In a letter to the auditor obtained by Morris News, GBI Director Vernon Keenan explained why his agency hasn’t asked the governor for permission to seek a stronger reporting law.

“To date, the more pressing needs of the GBI have supplanted the exploration of changes to the Georgia Death Investigation Act,” he wrote.

Keenan acknowledged that the state did not get 90 percent of its autopsy reports issued within its own 90-day target, but he said the hiring of an additional medical examiner is reducing the backlog.

The state’s three medical labs handle nearly 5,000 autopsies each year, and half involve tests for alcohol or illegal drugs which add to the delays. Local medical examiners in 65 communities handle the rest.

County coroners recommend physicians to the state’s chief medical examiner who makes the formal appointment of the local medical examiners.

The auditors noted that many had no background in forensic pathology as required for county, regional and state examiners.

“Our report found that there were physicians trained in other medical fields, including family and internal medicine, geriatrics, and orthopedics that are serving as local medical examiners,” the auditors wrote.

But Keenan replied that there aren’t enough pathologists in Georgia to make it a requirement.

“Further, it is the opinion of the GBI Medical Examiner’s Office that such training is not necessary,” he wrote.

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WritingsOnTheWall
118
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WritingsOnTheWall 05/05/13 - 02:50 pm
0
0
Eva Nicole Markyna...she was
Unpublished

Eva Nicole Markyna...she was one of these cases that went under the radar. Thanks State of Georgia for caring...*rolls eyes*

Little Lamb
46342
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Little Lamb 05/05/13 - 03:41 pm
2
0
Workload

From the story:

The state’s three medical labs handle nearly 5,000 autopsies each year, and half involve tests for alcohol or illegal drugs which add to the delays.

The state medical labs could let large hospitals that have lab equipment (and/or privately-owned labs) to do some of the alcohol and drug testing on the dead bodies in order to speed up the process.

Of course, when you really think about it, there really is no need for speed. The people are dead.

AutumnLeaves
8006
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AutumnLeaves 05/05/13 - 04:14 pm
2
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If a death, no matter what

If a death, no matter what the means or cause, happens in Richmond County, and a deputy coroner goes to the home where the body is, would the death necessarily be on record in Richmond County?

itsanotherday1
43637
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itsanotherday1 05/06/13 - 03:17 am
1
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@ LL

Not a lot of labs have the kind of instrumentation and processes that can stand up to forensic level analysis. Virtually all hospitals are able to test drugs/alcohol for medical purposes.

nocnoc
43369
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nocnoc 05/06/13 - 05:45 am
2
0
You know?

For the death of me I don't know why they are not reporting them?☺

Maybe out of respect for the family to avoid a community stigma?

But, then there is the Life Insurance issue policy 2 window and false doc's to collect that come into play.

If bodies are set to the Regional Crime labs why do we have Coroners?

Little Lamb
46342
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Little Lamb 05/06/13 - 08:03 am
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@ IAD

Of course not all labs have equipment and trained analysts. But some do! My comment was that the state medical labs could farm out the work to other labs that are competent to do the work.

Little Lamb
46342
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Little Lamb 05/06/13 - 08:09 am
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Permission

From Walter Jones’ story:

In a letter to the auditor obtained by Morris News, GBI Director Vernon Keenan explained why his agency hasn’t asked the governor for permission to seek a stronger reporting law. “To date, the more pressing needs of the GBI have supplanted the exploration of changes to the Georgia Death Investigation Act,” he wrote.

In the first place, I agree with Vernon Keegan’s assessment that he has more important things to do than lobby for changes to the law. But in the second place, Walter Jones does us readers no favor by stating that Keegan should be asking the Governor’s permission. None of us need the Governor’s permission to seek a change to a law.

What I think this state needs are fewer autopsies and more common-sense coroners.

itsanotherday1
43637
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itsanotherday1 05/06/13 - 09:16 am
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I'm just saying

I'm just saying those are few and far between LL. That is the business I spent 30 years in. Hospital labs don't want to be entangled in court cases either, but a primary factor is clinical settings have very little use for mass spectrometers and other research type instruments that are required for forensic analysis.

All IMO of course, your mileage may vary.

itsanotherday1
43637
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itsanotherday1 05/06/13 - 09:18 am
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I second that.

"What I think this state needs are fewer autopsies and more common-sense coroners."

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 05/06/13 - 11:19 am
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Less death would also make

Less death would also make some impact. jez sayin

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