Thursday, February 08, 2007

Politics Trump Principle In Coroner Debate

Before the legislature got down to business this year, there was plenty of talk about revamping Indiana's archaic elected coroner system. In the state's largest county, we have a chiropractor doing the job of a medical doctor, employees of the office stealing money from the dead and bodies being mistakenly cremated. A state-run medical examiner system is the real answer to the problem, but any hope of such a system becoming a reality any time soon faded yesterday. Rep. David Orentlicher (D-Indianapolis) stripped the only meaningful provision contained in his HB 1503. As the Star's Jon Murray reports:

An Indiana House proposal to create a statewide medical examiner system was killed Wednesday by its sponsor, who said the issue likely would resurface later in the session.

Rep. David Orentlicher's measure was among several bills proposed by legislators to address problems exposed by the misidentification of two Taylor University students in a deadly van accident last year.

The bill sponsored by Orentlicher, D-Indianapolis, would have created a state medical examiner's office and at least five regional offices to handle autopsies for county coroners. Currently, elected coroners hire forensic pathologists or pay independent contractors to perform the examinations.

Orentlicher amended HB 1503 during a meeting Wednesday of the House Committee on Family, Children and Human Affairs. The changes leave intact another part of the bill that Orentlicher said was his priority . . .

Orentlicher said changes to the coroner system still are needed. He and other lawmakers have cited the Grant County van crash, in which the identities of Laura VanRyn, who died, and Whitney Cerak, who survived, were switched for five weeks. Four other students and employees died in the April 2006 accident. A truck driver accused of causing the crash is awaiting trial.

"We need to move as quickly as makes sense to prevent future tragedies," Orentlicher said. A related bill proposed by Sen. Patricia L. Miller, R-Indianapolis, would revive the state Commission on Forensic Sciences. It would have until Nov. 1 to report back on whether Indiana would benefit from a medical examiner system and propose changes.

Don't you like how lawmakers only mention the misidentification problem in Grant County last year as the reason for coroner reform? That coroner made one mistake compared to a litany of problems which have arisen in the Marion County coroner's office. If the problems which have surfaced this past year are not enough to move Indiana's legislature to do away with a system which allows completely unqualified persons to be elected coroner, then it's hard to imagine what circumstances would move them. A constitutional amendment doing away with the coroner's office and replacing it with a statewide medical examiner system makes so much sense, but lawmakers would rather waste their time amending the state constitution to strip away rights from minority groups they disfavor.


Anonymous said...

Lord nows THIS kind of Constitutional Amendment makes way more sense than the one being considered under SJR 7.

Before Wilson weighs in...this is about competence, not race. And there's a reason most chiropractic medicine is not covered by medical insurance, or that the DCs are not allowed in most hospitals.

Quack. Quack.

Anonymous said...

The reason no mention of Marion County? Simple partisan politics. As a cronie of Carson's, Ackles is a part of the problem, and until criminal charges are filed(grand jury to convene next month), he will be shielded by the corrupt machine that we know as the Marion County Democratic Party. And Wilson, you know Ackles has no job being Coroner, he admitted to the Star he got the job by "luck". Has nothing to do with race, everything to do with competence and content of character.

Anonymous said...

"A constitutional amendment doing away with the coroner's office and replacing it with a statewide medical examiner system makes so much sense, but lawmakers would rather waste their time amending the state constitution to strip away rights from minority groups they disfavor."

With all due respect to your excellent coverage, I think a few things bear epeating about Rep. Orentlicher.

First, he has been and continues to be a leader in the fight against SJR 7. He is not trying to waste anyone's time nor is he trying to strip anyone's rights.

Second, Orentlicher has been a leader on fighting child abuse. I think it's great that he wants to make sure that the child fatality review board has the power it needs to do its job professionally and effectively. Kudos to him for introducing this legislation and trying to get it through the process.

Finally, it's premature to give up on Rep. Orentlicher's efforts to set up a statewide medical examiner system. As the Indy Star article suggests, he expects the proposal to "resurface" later in the session.

We all know that bill progress in the General Assembly has a(n) (il)logic of its own. Who knows what the politics are that make Orentlicher think the coroner bill will realize more success in another vehicle?

At any rate, it's important that we're as clear as wel can be on what happened: a good bill provision went forward; a good bill provision is going to have to look for another "home." But given Orentlicher's tenacity, I have no doubt that we'll see this provision again this session.

Wilson46201 said...

Since 1851, the 92 Indiana Counties have elected their Coroners. There are no qualifications for the office whatsoever - at best, the County Coroners were doctors but not necessarily. Somehow this system has worked adequately for 156 years with no major and repeating crises.

Marion County elects the first ever African-American Coroner in Hoosier history and all of a sudden the Constitution needs to be amended and that Office abolished after 156 years? Sounds kinda fishy to me...

Gary R. Welsh said...

gladys, I'm not faulting Rep. Orentlicher. I think it took courage on his part to introduce the bill knowing that folks like Wilson would deem such efforts as purely racist because the current Marion County coroner just happens to be African-American. Orentlicher's support of GLBT rights has been duly noted on numerous occasions on this blog.

Anonymous said...

I knew it, I knew it. Wilson plays the race card. His arguments are so predictable. Ackles only ran after being slated by Carson and the machine. Then he won when uneducated, mostly minority, Democrats voted straight party-ticket like they always do. Its how Gibson won, its how Gray won, and its how Carson continues to win. Why bother actually researching the quality of the candidates when you can just pull one tab and keep Marion County on a spiraling downfall of corruption. You can't argue the issues at MCCO Wilson, so you trump up race...Gimme a break...........FYI I'm a minority and it outrages me that people like you use race at times like these. CONTENT OF CHARACTER MR. Gray,Ackles, et al...NOT COLOR OF SKIN......

Wilson46201 said...

If you are truly a detective and not just playing one on the Internet, try detecting that African-Americans make up only about 24% of the County yet Democrats win by over 50% of the vote. Ackles got more Caucasian votes than Black. Also detect that Republicans also have massive numbers of straight party-line voters too - just not quite as many as Democrats do. Tough.

After 156 years of County Coroners in Indiana, it seems that the criticism of the performance of the first African-American ever in that office has stirred up emotions to the point of wanting to abolish that 156-year-okd office. Peculiar indeed.

Wilson46201 said...

As some folk said about Rosa Parks: it has nothing to do about race - she was breaking the law!


Anonymous said...

Whoa...a quontum leap from "Dr." Ackles to Rosa Parks...with apologies to the late Ms. Parks, whose courage Rep. Carson aptly helped memorialize in Congress with their Medal of Freedom.

Wilson, I sincerely hope none of your loved ones are under the auspices of the good "Dr." Ackles anytime soon. He presided over the investigation of one of my best friend's mother's death. His office, and him in particular, botched every possible angle of that case, and delayed releasing the body for days. Anxious family from all over the country had travelled here for last rites, and bureaucractic bungling at the coroner's office delayed it unnecessarily.

There was no crominal imnplicaiton in her death. But, when the relatives finally got to retrieve the body, the death certificate was unsigned, and they overheard a loud and angry patron screaming about his dead relative's valuables being taken.

All true.

And amazingly, not one piece of this was racial, Wilson. The man is a chiropractor, for cryin' out loud...and he's incompetent under any reasonable standard.

If we needed any confirmation os his arrogance and ignorance, all we had to do was watch his pitiful performance in front of the county's Criminal Justice plannign group last November. "I am the coroner of Marion County," ala Al Haig.

Absolutely astounding..that he ever got the job, and that he continues to hold it.

For the record, Wilson may be right about one aspect of "Dr." Ackles--I was at the slating convention which nomniated him. The Carson folks were nowhere near him. Nothing appeared with their name endorsing him. I think he kinda "snuck in the back door," as my aunt used to say.

A qualified man wanted to run, but he was encouraged not to. And I know for a fact those persons who "dis"encouraged him had nothing to do with Rep. Carson. Your culprit there was Ed Treacy, who pretty much flew solo on his potliical shenanigans. Denial culpability, ya know...

Anonymous said...

To impdbrass and ipddet:

You both bemoan the 'race' card and yet, in both of your posts you automatically link Ackles with the Congresswoman. Why? Well, gee, there both black and...uh..hmmm. If you could unfocus yourselves for one moment from your race obsession and actually apply logic and any knowledge which you might have of D politics (which is clearly very little) you would already know where Ackles came from. Try this- don't focus on skin color (come on, try) and repeat- Ackles is a chiropractor-until you figure it out. I'm sure that you can. If that doesn't help you, then you clearly do not even know the basics of Marion County D politics and probably should refrain from making ridiculous comments about who is 'cronies' with whom. I have been following this topic since AI started writing about it and I cannot tell you how amazing it is that all of you professed Carson experts don't know the answer to this. And you know what? The funniest part about it is that it isn't a secret at all among Dems. Again- not about race- he is a chiropractor. Anyone?

Anonymous said...

"Marion County elects the first ever African-American Coroner in Hoosier history and all of a sudden the Constitution needs to be amended and that Office abolished after 156 years? Sounds kinda fishy to me... "

If Marion Co. citizens had not elected an idiot, then we wouldn't have these problems. I say don't worry about it. Let killers go free, let victims wait months for death certificates so they can get life insurance to pay the bills.

If we are lucky, the last people with a brain in Marion Co. will quickly flee the cesspool.