Jan Burke

Friday, January 05, 2007

An ME leaves as his office faces budget cuts

An Associated Press story in the 1/1/07 issue of the Springfield State Journal-Register is a tribute to Dr. Edmund Donoghue. After living in Chicago all his life and serving Cook County's Medical Examiner's Office since 1977, Dr. Donoghue decided to leave office rather than to force his office to cope with a mandated 17% budget cut.

Donoghue, a lifelong Chicagoan, is moving to Savannah, Ga., where he'll serve as a regional medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation....

Until recently, he said, he was only contemplating retirement. But proposed budget cuts in Cook County - he oversees an office with an $8.6 million budget to process about 10,000 death certificates and perform about 4,000 autopsies annually - tipped the decision, he said.

"They say stick to your core mission, but we don't really have any elective programs," said Donoghue, who fears a proposed 17 percent cut would delay the release of bodies to funeral homes and processing of death certificates.

Toxicology tests, which now take 60 to 90 days and are crucial to criminal investigations, also might take longer if the office is not properly funded, Donoghue said....

Donoghue's dilemma is being faced by coroners and medical examiners all across the country.

The delay of a death certificate can have a huge negative financial effect (almost all financial processes after a death require a death certificate) on a family already struggling with the loss of a loved one.

The next time someone tells you that what coroners and MEs do can wait, because its all about dead people who aren't going anywhere, think of those families.

And you might also think about how many lives may have been saved over the last two decades by tamper-resistant packaging -- in 1982, Donoghue's office discovered that seven mysterious deaths were caused by a malicious person who placed Tylenol tainted with cyanide on grocery store shelves, where it was bought and taken by unsuspecting consumers.



Blogger Peter said...

Coroners, medical examiners, people who work for the thin, pathetic spill-absorbers that used to be newspapers . . .
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

8:46 PM, January 05, 2007  
Blogger aaron21 said...

I hope you don't mind but do enjoy reading your blog and all. But, I saw this and your name and this blog popped up. I don't know if you'v heard about this book store. Personally? I'v never been there nor have really heard about it except hearing about Tom Savage another writer use to work there.

Anyhow, they are closing doors and it's just sad.


12:32 AM, January 06, 2007  
Blogger Jan said...

Peter, it does get depressing sometimes, but then I realize that there are still lots of good people doing their best against the odds in all of these work places.

12:18 PM, January 08, 2007  
Blogger Jan said...

Hey there, Aaron. I always enjoy hearing what you have to say, so feel free to keep commenting on this blog.

It is sad about Murder Ink. I will especially miss seeing Tom Savage there. He's a friend, a good conversationalist -- I hope this isn't too hard on him.

12:21 PM, January 08, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

I like to think I am one of them, Jan. The new owner of my newspaper proclaimed "The next Great Era in Philadelphia Journalism Begins Today." So far he has laid off 100 people, plunged the morale of those who remain to an all-time low, sent those who remain fleeing to new jobs, mangled contract negotiations, and bungled every opportunity he has had to win the city and the staff over. If only he hired someone who knew something about public relations.

Wait a minute, he is a public-relations professional by trade.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

7:33 PM, January 12, 2007  
Blogger Jan said...

I am sad to say that I'm hearing similar stories (although this one has some especially cringe-inducing qualities) from reporters all over the country. I'm sure you've heard the same. One watches newspapers being dismantled, experienced reporters laid off or fleeing the all-but-burning building, and some Frankensteined "product" reassembled from the pieces. Readership nearly becomes a matter of no concern.
Some people blame the Internet.

But if you look at what makes up the content of news on the Web, all but the Internet equivalent of talk radio comes from reporters, and a great many of them print journalists.

Undervaluing print journalists for what's on the Web is like deciding you're going to be asking your next door neighbor to diagnose your medical condition, just because he's always wanted to be a doctor.

12:04 PM, January 13, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Well, your blog just ate my comment; let's try again.

Your observation about the reader becoming a matter of no concern is acute and ironic. In the name of "the reader," successive generations of "leaders" at the Philadelphia Inquirer have drained the "news"paper of just about everything this employeee (and reader) is interested in.

The repeated appeals to "the reader," the repeated emphasis on methods that have failed time and again without denting our "leaders'" confidence in them is an eternal mystery.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

3:45 PM, January 16, 2007  

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