MADISONVILLE, Ky. (7/31/13) – The reopening of the Western Kentucky Medical Examiner's office in Madisonville has proved to be saving the county money by reducing the transportation expenses for forensic autopsies. With an expected 250 autopsies to be performed each year locally, the transportation savings will save the Hopkins County Coroner's office from adding that expense to the county's bills.
The local medical examiner's office was closed in July, 2012, and autopsies were being diverted to the main office in Louisville. The process also took more time due to the higher workload in Louisville.
When Dr. Greg Wanger transferred from the Northern Kentucky Medical Examiner's office to Madisonville early this year, he brought with him nearly three decades of experience. That experience plus availability has helped the coroner's office in gathering helpful information and savings.
"The medical examiner's role is to assist a coroner's investigation," said Wanger. "A medical examiner might go to the scene but it's usually the coroner that goes. If the coroner requests an autopsy, we do that here."
Wanger said the benefits to reopening of the local office also include being more available to local officials and victims' families.
Wanger said that while natural death autopsies represent the bulk of the office's investigations, drug deaths are second.
"Most commonly our cases are more (natural deaths) than anything else," he said. "People say, 'Well, why is that? A natural death is not really your jurisdiction.' No it isn't. That is the coroner's jurisdiction. When we're doing them, it's because they've occurred in an unnatural place or someone has raised an unnatural question. The next bulk of our work is drug-related. It used to be motor vehicle accidents but that's no longer the case."
Wanger said the majority of autopsies performed are not the result of homicide and that the work is nothing like seen in television shows.
The most likely victims of a death-resulting injury are the hardest to recognize, said Wanger.
"Those we worry about the most are those with extremes of age," he said. "Because they're the ones most easily hurt and the most least-recognized as potential homicides. Infants and the elderly are the ones we worry the most about. People who are ill or elderly make easy victims. So we do worry about those cases."
Rita Dukes Smith
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