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Maryland medical examiner seeks help with autopsy backlog

February 7, 2022 GMT

BALTIMORE (AP) — Maryland’s medical examiner is asking the federal government for help managing a backlog of more than 200 bodies awaiting autopsies.

Chief Medical Examiner Victor Weedn told the Postmortem Examiners Commission that he would make a formal request Friday for help from Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Teams, The Daily Record reported.

As of Friday, 217 bodies were awaiting examinations by the state’s forensic pathologists, but Weedn said that number could surpass 300 in less than two weeks.

The number of cases investigated grew 85% between 2012 and 2020. Once, the office could turn around 99% of cases in less than 24 hours, but today, it can take two weeks.

The backlog began in mid-December, but by Jan. 13, an initial 50 bodies waiting for autopsy doubled.

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“The caseload has increased drastically over the last year,” Weedn said.

The office has lost at least four forensic pathologists and the chief of investigations. The lack of staff threatens the agency’s accreditation because staffing has fallen below national standards.

The Department of Health is working to free up 21 new positions, Deputy Health Secretary Dr. Jinleen Chan said.