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Digging Deeper: Autopsies in the East - Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports - WNCT.com

Digging Deeper: Autopsies in the East

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GREENVILLE, N.C. -
The state senate's budget proposal promises to find problems in our state's medical examiner process by allotting money to investigate it. 
     
The problem-plagued office is under fire after a Charlotte Observer report found examiners only visit 10% of the state's crime scenes and it often depends on the location of the scene.

The Observer's series was prompted by the death of an 11-year-old boy uncovered some troubling statistics.
•North Carolina pathologists perform autopsies in 40 percent of the cases they investigate, far fewer than pathologists in leading medical examiner systems.
•Medical examiners don’t go to death scenes in 90 percent of the cases they investigate.
•Despite failing to view bodies in one of every nine deaths – a violation of a state requirement – medical examiners still get paid

On Monday 9 On Your Side spoke to ECU's Chief Medical Forensic Pathologist, Dr. William Oliver. He attributes the problems to several issues, funding being the primary problem. 

"Slowly as cost and opportunities go up, our funding has not followed. Forensic pathology is not the same forensic pathology we practiced in 1976 or 1980. Genetic testing, CT, MRI, All of those things cost money and there's also a lot more people here and that means we have to spread out our resources to serve more."

Across the state there are only 4 regional centers where autopsies are performed: Charlotte, Raleigh, Winston-Salem and Greenville. The News & Observer reports: "Last year’s budget totaled $8.3 million. Two weeks ago, McCrory asked lawmakers to give the medical examiner’s office an additional $2 million."

In 2013, Greenville’s office covered 22 counties, performed 511 forensic autopsies and a “couple hundred” inspections.

Oliver says lack of funding has slowed the office’s processes down. “Our turnaround time is not what it should be. The National Association of Medical Examiner standards are that over 90% of the cases should be signed out within 60 days; we're running it between 90 and 120.”

Pitt County’s District Attorney acknowledges the delay but says she's just happy to have the office here. The state tried to close the office in the east last year.

"Having someone come to the crime scene where you can ask immediate questions that you see in a scene as it relates to the body are invaluable.” Robb said. “I would just think that not having that could be detrimental to the criminal justice system in general."

Pitt County doesn't face the same problems counties like Dare and Hyde county do. They are 3 hours away from the Greenville office and rely heavily on full-time doctors paid $100 per case to determine manner of death.
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