State Audit Findings

Coroners don't report suicides as required

by Walter C. Jones, Morris News Service

ATLANTA — County coroners across Georgia aren’t reporting suicides and all suspicious deaths to the State Medical Examiner’s Office as required by law, according to a recent state audit.

It also found that the office isn’t meeting its own target of issuing timely autopsy reports.

The Department of Audits and Accounts released its report Wednesday as an update on an audit done in 2010. It noted that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which runs the Medical Examiner’s Office, had complied with most of the 2010 recommendations.

Auditors noted in 2010 that the local officials were glossing over certain deaths and recommended strengthening the law to require the reporting of all deaths to the state.

“GBI acknowledges that such cases may not be reported as required; however, they have not taken action to address the issue,” the latest audit notes.

In a letter to the auditor obtained by Morris News, GBI Director Vernon Keenan explained why his agency hasn’t asked the governor for permission to seek a stronger reporting law.

“To date, the more pressing needs of the GBI have supplanted the exploration of changes to the Georgia Death Investigation Act,” he wrote.

Keenan acknowledged that the state did not get 90 percent of its autopsy reports issued within its own 90-day target, but he said the hiring of an additional medical examiner is reducing the backlog.

The state’s three medical labs handle nearly 5,000 autopsies each year, and half involve tests for alcohol or illegal drugs which add to the delays. Local medical examiners in 65 communities handle the rest.

County coroners recommend physicians to the state’s chief medical examiner who makes the formal appointment of the local medical examiners.

The auditors noted that many had no background in forensic pathology as required for county, regional and state examiners.

“Our report found that there were physicians trained in other medical fields, including family and internal medicine, geriatrics, and orthopedics that are serving as local medical examiners,” the auditors wrote.

But Keenan replied that there aren’t enough pathologists in Georgia to make it a requirement.

“Further, it is the opinion of the GBI Medical Examiner’s Office that such training is not necessary,” he wrote.



More Local

Alford says flag is precious

To Sgt. Maj. Jerome Alford, the American flag is more than just strips of cloth. “When you’re in a foreign land and you see the ... Read More


Flags placed beside graves of veterans

The graves of local soldiers were again honored with American flags. On Saturday, Coweta Veterans’ Club held its annual ceremony of pl ... Read More


Local Hilton Hotel construction begins

Construction is under way for a new hotel on the corner of McIntosh and Newnan Crossing. Hilton Hotels has currently initiated site preparat ... Read More


McDonald’s movie coming to Coweta for filming

A replica of the hamburger stand Richard and Maurice McDonald opened in San Bernardino, CA, in 1940 will be built in the parking lot of the ... Read More


Public safety can easily cover Greentop homes

Although the Greentop Road development project may add nearly 350 homes to the city of Newnan four miles north of downtown, both the Newnan ... Read More

River Fest returns to Newnan on June 10

Chattahoochee Bend River Fest will be returning to downtown Newnan. The second annual event will be held June 10 from 5 to 9 p.m. This year, ... Read More