Watchdog: Accountability

Massachusetts has backlog of death certificates

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BOSTON (AP) — Long delays from the Massachusetts medical examiner's office in issuing death certificates are putting an additional strain on many grieving families and making it more difficult to settle estates and process insurance claims.

The Boston Globe (http://bit.ly/1nMQFqR) reports that the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety says the number of unfinished death certificates soared from 58 in 2011 to 947 in 2013.

One cause appears to be a shortage of pathologists. The medical examiner has 10 doctors to handle nearly 2,500 autopsies annually. A 2007 study recommended at least 17 doctors.

A cost-cutting move to switch laboratories to conduct toxicology tests has delayed some results for months.

Forensic science undersecretary Curtis Wood says the office understands the hardships delays cause, but under current circumstances, little can be done.

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Information from: The Boston Globe, http://www.bostonglobe.com

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