Drug overdose deaths overwhelm Maryland medical examiner’s office
17 Apr, 2017
The heroin epidemic is killing so many people in the state of Maryland that its medical examiner’s office is straining to keep up, which could threaten its accreditation. Autopsies in the state have grown 40 percent since 2010 – almost 100 more a year.
“Everyone continues to add on work hours and work faster and hopefully not take short cuts,” Dr. David R. Fowler, Maryland’s chief medical examiner, told the Baltimore Sun. “They absorb this extra load. But there is a point where they can’t continue to add to that and expect the system will function.”
Medical examiner pathologists are accredited to carry out a set number of autopsies a year to ensure quality control and confidence in the results. The situation has implications for the criminal justice and public health systems, which rely on the autopsies in court cases.
“Maryland is currently fully accredited,” Peterson said. “But as is the case with many offices, it might be facing loss of that accreditation due to the intersection of caseload and staffing level.”
State pathologists are performing about 40 percent more autopsies than in 2010, almost 100 more per pathologist, and the toxicology lab runs nonstop, according to officials. There was no increase in examiners and the office struggles to hold on to support staff.