Southwest Life

Exact culprit hard to identify in deaths involving multiple drugs

Perhaps partially in response to the “opioid epidemic,” some prosecutors are eager to throw the book at drug dealers. Because of a 2014 Supreme Court opinion, medical examiner testimony can be a...

DATE: Feb. 3, 2018 | COLUMN: Coroner's Report

Risk factors for death don’t always tell the whole story

Dallas McCarver, a superstar body builder, who looked like a normally-pigmented Incredible Hulk, died on Aug. 22 at the age of 26. McCarver, aka “Big Country,” had plenty of risk factors for an...

DATE: Jan. 6, 2018 | COLUMN: Coroner's Report

When freakishly bad luck is the line between life and death

My friend “John,” a conscientious and responsible guy, could have been killed because of a bad mistake. While driving at 60 mph, he looked down to plug in his cellphone. John never saw the string...

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

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