Report: COVID, crime fueling burnout for medical examiners


(NewsNation) — A new report commissioned by the City of Philadelphia found that its Medical Examiner’s Office is understaffed, with workers constantly overwhelmed and playing catch-up.

In Philadelphia, the report, prepared by a law firm, notes that the examiners are suffering from severe burnout stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Compounding this is crime: Last year, Philadelphia had 562 homicides, the highest in city history.

The report, which was detailed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, criticized the office for wide-ranging problems. Its Medical Examiners Office isn’t accredited by a national professional organization and lacks written policies, the Inquirer said. Last year, 58 staffers were asked to consider investigating 6,921 deaths, the newspaper reported. It ended up performing 1,721 autopsies.

Across the nation, medical examiners’ and coroners’ offices are also short-staffed, a result of being underfunded. Some report a backlog of bodies, which has left many offices with a dilemma concerning where to hold the bodies, while bereaved families wait.

That’s the case in Maryland, according to the Washington Post. The newspaper reported that the state’s medical examiner’s office, with one of the busiest morgues in the country, had more than 200 bodies waiting for autopsies in February.

The state ended up requesting help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The pandemic, escalating gun violence deaths and an increase in fatal drug overdoses during the pandemic have been cited as contributors to the rising body count.

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