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North Carolina Medical Examiner System “Ignored and Overlooked”

Quinny Buzz 3 with Maxi-Cosi Mico infant car seatIn response to an online report published by The Observer, state lawmakers have given the state medical examiner’s budget a $1 million boost. Why? Because of issues brought to light that the office blames on a lack of personnel and an improper budget.

In its report, The Observer points to a 2012 case in which 4-month-old Jams Phillips died in Brunswick County. The death was ruled an accident without an autopsy or even a visit to the scene. The infant’s mother claimed that she had been sleeping with the child and possibly rolled over on him.

Fast forward 18 months and the infant’s brother, 8-month-old Luke, dies under similar circumstances. Again, the death was ruled an accident with no autopsy and no visit to the scene. Says the father, Seth, “If there had been any serious investigation after Bo died, I feel like Luke’s death wouldn’t have happened.”

Unfortunately, investigations, or a lack of, like these occur throughout the state on a regular basis.

It has been discovered that the state’s medical examiner’s office rarely visits the scene in the case of infant death and, perhaps more surprisingly, rarely looks at the body. This flagrant misuse of investigatory powers brings to question the ruling in thousands of deaths.

According to the article, the office visited the scene of infant death in just 2 percent of the cases. The numbers a decade ago are not much better – the office visited the scene of infant death just 7 percent of the time. Experts want the job done better. Infant and toddler deaths deserve unique attention because these young children are especially vulnerable to abuse.

The office defends its practices, stating that even if they do not respond to the scene, the police do. This is in no way an acceptable excuse. Police officers, say experts, are on scene to collect information and solve a crime, not to determine the ultimate cause of death.

Because of the report, a state committee has recommended sweeping reforms to the way the state medical examiner’s office conducts death investigations. Suggestions include required training for medical examiners, an increase in pay, and the hiring of professional death investigators. According to State Senator Jeff Tarte, R-Mecklenburg, “Our medical examiner system needs serious help.”

It remains to be seen if the suggestions offered will be put into effect or if they will be followed. Until that time, people who have lost a loved one due to questionable circumstances may have very little recourse.

If a loved one has died and you suspect abuse, negligence, or other foul play, contact the wrongful death attorneys at Auger & Auger for assistance. We can offer you the assistance that you seek, and we will work tirelessly on your behalf. Contact us today for immediate assistance. Your first consultation is always free!

Posted In: Child Care Laws

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