Ward Room
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Committee Approves Term Limit for County Medical Examiner

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Effective immediately, it will be easier for the Cook County Board to fire the Chief Medical Examiner, who until now has enjoyed a virtual lifetime appointment. But in the wake of the recent scandals at the morgue, it is unclear what the current medical examiner?s future holds.The Board adopted reforms at Thursday?s meeting, mandating a five year term for the chief medical examiner, laying out procedures for his or her firing, and imposing a sixty day limit on the amount of time bodies can be kept prior to burial. (Published Thursday, Mar 1, 2012)

     

    Effective immediately, it will be easier for the Cook County Board to fire the Chief Medical Examiner, who until now has enjoyed a virtual lifetime appointment.

    But in the wake of the recent scandals at the morgue, it is unclear what the current medical examiner’s future holds.The Board adopted reforms at Thursday’s meeting, mandating a five year term for the chief medical examiner, laying out procedures for his or her firing, and imposing a sixty day limit on the amount of time bodies can be kept prior to burial. 

    Last month, it was revealed that hundreds of bodies had been stockpiled in the morgue’s coolers, with some families complaining they had been turned away when searching for loved ones, only to find they had been in the morgue all along.

    While commissioners insisted during Thursday’s debate that the reform measures were not aimed at current medical examiner Nancy Jones, many were openly critical of operations during her watch. 

    Board Member John Fritchey asked aloud why Jones had not been more forthcoming in explaining the recent problems in her office. “There’s an inescapable perception that she’s hiding,” Fritchey said.  “I think that the people would have deserved to hear from the medical examiner, rather than have this sort of ‘Wizard of Oz’, behind-the-curtain type of mentality.”

     

     Commissioner Peter Silvestri decried the fact that nothing had been done to take Catholic Cemeteries’ up on an offer to bury the 300 bodies still stockpiled in the morgue.

     “Everyone wants to bury them,” Silvestri said.  “But they’re still sitting in refrigerators at the morgue.  That’s very troublesome.”

    County Administrator Robin Kelly said the County would avail themselves of Catholic Cemeteries’ generosity, but that they had to make certain no individuals were buried in Catholic plots whose families wanted them buried elsewhere.

    Kelly said there were currently 312 bodies in the County Morgue.  Of those, she said, 160 are cases which should be covered by Public Aid, which recently suffered drastic cuts in its budget.