December 1, 2013

Newspaper: deaths labeled suicide without exam


Associated Press

ATLANTA — A newspaper investigation has found that many deaths labeled suicides by authorities in Georgia have not undergone a full forensic examination.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution analyzed a database of nearly 175,000 state death certificates and found that more than 1,000 deaths since 2011 were labeled suicides without such examinations (http://bit.ly/18Skpwv ).

Elected coroners, who often lack training in medicine or forensic pathology, attributed deaths to a variety of causes, including gunshot wounds, hanging, suffocation with plastic bags, helium inhalation and self-mutilation.

In 69 cases, officials said suicides were caused by drug overdoses, but never verified that with laboratory tests.

Georgia law says suicides must be reported to a county coroner or the state medical examiner, who has the authority to decide whether to do an autopsy.

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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com