Carter County law enforcement asked to reduce number of autopsies

By Megan R. Harrell
Star Staff
mharrell@starhq.com

   Last night Carter County Executive Truman Clark asked members of the Law Enforcement Committee to seek a reduction in the amount of autopsies requested. The county uses the forensic services at East Tennessee State University, and the center has placed an ultimatum on Carter County. The county must reduce the number of autopsies requested or it will have to pay up.
   The Forensic Center stated that the requests for autopsies have increased rapidly over the last four fiscal years with numbers rising from 213 autopsies in 1997-1998 to 327 in the 2000-2001 fiscal year. The 53 percent increase has placed a substantial amount of strain on the center that serves an eight-county region.
   The center is responsible for a large variety of supplies and functions for each autopsy including specimens sent for toxicology testing, over time reimbursement for workers, and clean-up considerations. The center also has to finance a number of microbiology tests that are ordered with autopsies.
   National statistics show that the maximum amount of autopsies to be performed in one year that one pathologist may discharge is 150. Therefore, the 327 autopsies per year for the two pathologists at the Forensic Center at ETSU is grossly in excess of where an efficient working situation should be.
   Clark urged Carter County law enforcement officials to do what they could to reduce the number of autopsies being ordered from the area. "Not everybody that dies needs an autopsy," Clark said. "People die of natural causes."
   The Forensic Center stated that it would rather decrease its work load rather than increase charges for its services. ETSU and department leaders stated that it is unlikely that the center will be able to hire additional pathologists, so the work load must be decreased.
   In other business the Carter County Law Enforcement Committee voted to hire Dr. Albert Perry as the Carter County Jail physician. Dr. Perry will replace Dr. Daniel Earl as the new physician at the facility, and expects to follow many of the same procedures as Dr. Earl.
   Dr. Perry has not requested that any of the existing by laws in the contract for Carter County Jail physician be changed. The Law Enforcement Committee agreed to an annual salary of $26,400 as compensation for Dr. Perry's services at the jail.