An 18-month NJ Advance Media investigation found serious failures at nearly every level of New Jersey’s patchwork system of medical examiner offices. The state’s past two top medical examiners resigned in protest.
New Jersey entire system for investigating deaths is a national disgrace, reports NJ.com. An 18-month NJ Advance Media investigation found serious failures at nearly every level of New Jersey’s patchwork system of medical examiner offices, the obscure agencies charged with one of the most fundamental tasks: figuring out how somebody died and why. The probe found families left to grieve without answers or closure, innocent people sent to jail and murders unsolved. Pathologists across the U.S. says the New Jersey system is so bad that slowly decomposing bodies sometimes clog storage rooms of morgues by the dozens, stacked two to a gurney, awaiting examination or burial for months.
New Jersey’s past two top medical examiners resigned in protest over a lack of money and power to fix things. Governors and lawmakers for nearly four decades have largely ignored the system’s shortcomings and the tragic consequences, and failed to demand answers. Experts estimate an effective system should be run in New Jersey for about $31.5 million a year, $3.50 per resident. Taxpayers now pony up about $26 million for a system marred by neglect and dysfunction. The newest state medical examiner, Andrew Falzon, has won praise for trying to right the ship since he was confirmed last year. The state has hired more pathologists and support staff, improved turnaround times for autopsies and brought in an outside monitor to study the system and recommend changes. Past studies and recommendations still collect dust, as do the many reform bills that have been introduced in the legislature since 2003, all of them going nowhere.