WATERLOO, Iowa — Low staff and a growing number of deaths that require autopsies have created a backlog at the Iowa Medical Examiner’s Office.
The backlog means some families have to wait up to two weeks for a relative’s remains to be returned, KWWL-TV (http://bit.ly/2s8DXw ) reported.
Every unattended death currently goes to the state’s medical examiner’s office, which says such cases involve both violent and non-violent deaths. The agency notified the Iowa Funeral Directors Association on Wednesday that the backlog is estimated to last through June 23.
Steven Corson, who owns Kaiser-Corson funeral home, said he’s never seen such a backlog of autopsies in his more than 30 years in the business.
“Normally, before these backlogs it was a day or two and the post would be completed,” he said.
Corson said it puts him and other funeral directors in a difficult position of informing families of the delay.
“But we have to be honest with the families, and most of them understand. But I tell you when you just lost somebody, a minute seems like a day,” he said.
One way to reduce the backlog is to determine if it’s necessary for every case to go to the state’s office, Corson said.
Along with a growing caseload, the office is short-staffed. The agency normally employs four pathologists but is operating with only three. The opioid epidemic has created an increased need for forensic autopsies, so demand for forensic pathologists nationally is high, the office said.
County medical examiners, county attorneys and the state medical examiner are obligated to request a forensic autopsy in cases where the death is suspected to be caused by violent, suspicious or unexpected circumstances.
Information from: KWWL-TV, http://www.kwwl.com