Lack of autopsy prompts legislator to consider policy changes
The investigation into the death of a 7-year old Monroe boy faces road blocks due to the lack of an autopsy. According to an Everett Herald article, the child’s body was in the custody of the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s (ME) office for several hours before detectives were informed about the case.
"The loss of a child is always a tragedy. When there are claims of negligence or suspicious circumstances that tragedy could be a crime. To compound the loss by not having procedures in place that facilitate an investigation into this child’s death is unacceptable. We need to find a better way," said Rep. Mike Hope, (R-Lake Stevens), a 14-year veteran police officer and detective with the Seattle Police Department.
Monroe detectives and a Detective Sergeant twice asked the ME’s office to perform an autopsy and were denied. Two weeks later, toxicology tests concluded that the boy died with a lethal amount of over-the-counter pain killer in his system.
It is unclear at this time why the autopsy was not preformed. Records from ME offices are normally exempt from public disclosure and there are currently no laws in place that outline for forensic pathologists exactly when they must perform autopsies. An autopsy can prove critical to investigations since toxicology tests only determine the presence of drugs, not how the drugs were ingested.
“In my opinion, the death of a healthy child is enough to prompt an autopsy,” said Hope. “Other states require an autopsy be completed when law enforcement requests one. We should look at current practices and work with the medical examiners to come up with an agreed upon policy if possible. If we can’t, then legislation may be the answer.”
CONTACT: Stephanie Davenport, Public Information Officer, (360) 786-7031