I called * the Volusia County Medical Examiner using the number I was given by the nurse at Fish Memorial Hospital. 1 (Their automated message — press one for this, press two for that — is insufferably long, and includes a letter-by-letter enunciation of their web address: http://volusia.org/medicalexaminer/ which takes a long, long time.) A woman answered the phone and I said that I was calling because my mother had died on Sunday and I wanted to know why they weren’t performing an autopsy. She said, “Okay. Hold on just a moment and I’ll get you an investigator.”
After less than a minute I was connected to Bob Burch, who explained to me that my mother’s body was under the jurisdiction of Dr. Peele, and he was the only one who could authorize an autopsy. 2 Mr. Burch told me that he had talked to Detective Whittier of the Deland Police Department “last night and again this morning”. 3
I asked Bob why the medical examiner’s office was not going to perform an autopsy and he said, very casually, that it was because of her medical history, that she had a history of kidney problems, and she’d recently broken her hip.
I interrupted him because all of those facts were incorrect. She’s never broken a hip, I said, and she’s not had any kidney problems. He told me he was only basing his comments on the information he’d received from the hospital. 4 I told him that didn’t make any sense, because the information was all wildly inaccurate, and he said that he’d eventually get all of the correct records and have time to review them.
I tried telling him the story of the last week and everything that had happened with the Risperdal and my arguments with Ida Alvis at the nursing home, but he gave me no indication that any of that mattered to him. Bob told me that he couldn’t “take jurisdiction” over my mother’s body and couldn’t simply perform an autopsy based on the fact that I wanted one.
Bob said that she was under the care of a physician, there was no trauma surrounding her death, and there was no indication of foul play, so the ME will not do an autopsy. He further explained that even if I managed to transfer jurisdiction of my mother’s body to the Volusia County Medical Examiner’s office, “we’re just going to review her medical records, so we are not going to do an autopsy.”
Bob told me, “You do have an option to do a private autopsy, and the funeral home can help you do that.”
I thanked him and said goodbye.
The entire call lasted fourteen minutes.
* Note that this website displays Pacific time; this call began at 12:39 PM EDT.
1 (386) 258-4060
2 Note that when I talked to Bob on the 14th he told me that Dr. Peele had no influence on whether the medical examiner’s office performed an autopsy.
3 Detective Whittier would later refute this, stating that they spoke twice on Sunday night but not at all on Monday.
4 As far as I know, at this point the hospital was still claiming to have not yet received any information from Woodland Terrace, and Detective Whittier also told me that he had not yet received any medical records regarding my mother, so I don’t understand to which (clearly incorrect) records Bob was referring.