Thursday, March 13, 2008

County Coroner to Investigate All At-Home Deaths

Longview,WA,USA The Daily News by Leslie Slape

The Cowlitz County Coroner's Office is now evaluating all at-home deaths, even if they appear to be from natural causes, due to growing concern about elder abuse.

In addition, they're now responding to nursing home deaths if death resulted from an accident or underlying circumstances other than natural causes.

Coroner Tim Davidson and Chief Deputy Coroner Brett Dundas said by looking at deaths when they occur, they can rule out abuse right away - or begin an investigation.

"It's something that has needed to happen in this community," Dundas said. "We have so many people being cared for in back bedrooms of people's homes. Ninety-nine percent of those are cared for with the best intentions and good care. But if even one person is mistreated or doesn't receive care they deserve, they need a voice. I've always felt we are a voice for those who can't speak themselves. They deserve that voice, and this is one of the best ways we can do that."

"When we tell them we're there because of the huge problem with elder abuse, they are completely receptive," he said. "There's almost a sigh of relief that somebody's doing something, that an agency is out there looking out for the family."

The changes have been greeted with enthusiasm by law enforcement and funeral homes, Davidson and Dundas said.



"Researchers also identified a propensity for medical examiners and coroners to exhibit ageism—a belief that focusing on nursing home deaths was “a waste of their time and resources…because of the poor health status of most nursing home residents… [who] would die anyway.”[8] National Institute of Justice

The propensity of Coroners NOT to investigate elder deaths because they were going to die anyways is contrary to our values, the example of Cowlitz County Coroner's office 360-577-3079 davidsont@cowlitz.wa.wus is a giant step forward and an example that we hope others will follow.

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