Southwest Life

DNA tests are not always foolproof

DNA testing procedures developed by the medical examiner’s office in New York City have come under attack, calling into question the validity of some DNA-based convictions. The office recently...

DATE: Nov. 3, 2017 | COLUMN: Coroner's Report

When the stress of a disaster causes death

Two weeks after Hurricane Irma, the Miami Herald reported that Florida’s unofficial death toll had risen to 75. Depending on the practice philosophies of Florida medical examiners, that figure...

DATE: Oct. 8, 2017 | COLUMN: Coroner's Report

Man comes back from dead after botched identification

In May, Frank J. Kerrigan, 82, got the phone call every grieving family longs for. “Your son is alive,” said Bill Shinker, a family friend who had been a pall bearer for Kerrigan’s son, Frank, 11...

DATE: Sept. 1, 2017 | COLUMN: Coroner's Report

Sometimes, autopsies aren’t what people want

Sarah Traynor, 7 years old and mildly autistic, was found hanging by a jump rope attached to the top bar of a swing set in her backyard. The Supreme Court of Victoria at Melbourne, Australia,...

DATE: Aug. 4, 2017 | COLUMN: Coroner's Report

America’s opioid crisis may be larger than we know

Quaaludes were popular before my time, but I saw cocaine and methamphetamine sweep the country and witnessed a renewed taste for heroin. Now, we have the “opioid crisis” – an epidemic of deaths...

DATE: July 1, 2017 | COLUMN: Coroner's Report

Test case shows how viewpoints about a death can differ

Medical examiners play mind games a lot. We create hypothetical death scenarios and work out the best certifications – the forensic pathology equivalent of Sudoku puzzles. We play these games alone...

DATE: June 2, 2017 | COLUMN: Coroner's Report

Physician-assisted suicide deaths in Colorado should be recorded accurately

The Colorado law that legalizes physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill requires certifiers to classify such deaths as natural. The cause of death must be the terminal illness, not drug...

DATE: May 6, 2017 | COLUMN: Coroner's Report

Deaths from police restraint present complex forensic, legal issues

Tanisha Anderson, a 37-year-old black woman, died during a struggle with Cleveland police in 2014. Her death was certified a homicide, but a judge refused to allow the medical examiner to testify...

DATE: April 1, 2017 | COLUMN: Coroner's Report

Technology revolutionizes the field of forensics

Forensic pathology has been a recognized medical subspecialty only since 1959, and I fear that for my profession, time is already running out. Doctors need to know why people die so they can...

DATE: March 2, 2017 | COLUMN: Coroner's Report

Tough choices: How far to take a death investigation?

Sometimes medical examiners have to decide whether it’s worth it to do everything they can. Families may think no stone should be left unturned in the effort to identify a body or determine a cause...

DATE: Feb. 2, 2017 | COLUMN: Coroner's Report

Where’s the line between accident and criminality?

When a child dies because somebody did something stupid, should medical examiners certify the manner of death as an accident because no harm was intended? Or homicide – stupidicide, we sometimes...

DATE: Jan. 4, 2017 | COLUMN: Coroner's Report

Rise in suicides casts shadow across Southwest Colorado

The Mountain West is a place for dreams. The spectacular vistas, primeval forests and the hardy, independent folks who live there are romanticized in our national history and popular culture. It...

DATE: Nov. 30, 2016 | COLUMN: Coroner's Report