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Tue Jun 2, 2020, 05:57 PM

Want police reform? We need independent medical examiners and coroners. [View all]

Justin Feldman is an assistant professor of epidemiology at the New York University School of Medicine.

Floyd’s death is hardly the only case in which medical examiners have produced baffling findings after conducting autopsies of people who died while in police custody. This case is more proof that if we want police accountability, we need to make sure medical examiners can issue honest, independent reports on how people such as Floyd died.

If discrepancies between what seem like obvious causes of death and what actually shows up in autopsy reports or on death certificates seem shocking, they aren’t uncommon. I know, because I worked with a group of other epidemiologists to match police killings reported in the media to death certificate summaries we obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Under the privacy agreement governing the release of those summaries, we cannot discuss individual cases in detail.) We found that coroners and medical examiners throughout the United States routinely report findings that minimize the responsibility of police.

Our study identified 71 people who died in police custody after they had been subject to a Taser shock, chokehold or other form of restraint; after being transported in a police vehicle; or after being denied water while in detention. Medical examiners and coroners determined that only 24 of those people lost their lives because force was applied to them. In some of these cases, investigators correctly assigned a diagnostic code specific to police-related injury. But in others, the coroners and medical examiners used diagnostic codes meant to indicate a homicide between civilians. Even if these discrepancies were errors rather than deceptions, the result was that fewer police-involved deaths showed up in mortality data.

And a majority of these deaths — 47 of the 71 — were attributed to causes such as accidental injury, respiratory disease or mental illness, rather than to the actions of police officers. In some cases, the cause of death was reported as “undetermined.” While I did not have access to the full medical-examiner reports for these deaths in custody, the results strongly suggest that the role of police actions in the deaths were also minimized.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/06/02/want-police-reform-we-need-independent-medical-examiners-coroners/

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Reply Want police reform? We need independent medical examiners and coroners. [View all]
octoberlib Jun 2020 OP
Bev54 Jun 2020 #1
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JonLP24 Jun 2020 #4