Medical Examiner Mess at the Morgue: Cook County’s Body Politics

DIGNITY AND INTEGRITY MISSING AT THE MORGUE? COOK COUNTY AND THE BODY POLITIC ENCOUNTER PROBLEMS AT THE MEDICAL EXAMINER‘S OFFICE.

On the evening news this week were articles about the situation at the Cook County Medical Examiner office. I could only look at a couple of seconds of the video before turning it off. The pictures are disturbing, the images graphic and troubling (and the reporter does warn the viewer of this fact), very hard to look at indeed.

It is plain that conditions at the Cook County Morgue are very bad, and issues regarding the Medical Examiner require immediate resolution. Certainly in the light of the problems, Cook County needs a new M.E., and President Preckwinckle should do her best to locate one at once.

Conflicting evidence given by the M.E. and the employees of the M.E. office regarding the number of bodies in the morgue is one bothersome fact. But it is this author’s opinion that the employees would have the most accurate data, not the bosses or managers all the time. I think we focus too much and too often on the person who has the title of boss or manager or doctor because it looks good and sounds prestigious in a newscast. But I believe the employees would have the most accurate information, as they are around the area the most and should have no reason to lie.

In fact, if the employees do have a reason to lie (or not state the facts completely which is just as bad), then it should be found out why that is. Are they being coerced by the chief, being threatened with firing or pay cuts? The morgue employees, from the oldest or longest-serving, to the newest should be given fair hearing before the county board so that the facts can be known and the truth found out. It is fine for the county board to place an official in the M.E. office to check on things there, but something practical and active has to take place as a result of what is found out.

The travesty is that it is a pity that a decent burial is not a Constitutional privilege, just as are freedom of speech and the press and the right to bear arms and the like. People are all unique and special; we have been put on this planet to do something, to be someone, to achieve something, and everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, living or deceased.

It is in poor judgment to leave people in the conditions seen in the morgue, as pictured on many local news broadcasts. Very hard to see and surely most difficult to be around for the reporters, the employees, and those who have to bear the conditions found. It does not matter if no one loved them enough to claim a body or come forward to see if someone missing is there and thus close a book on a case, perhaps.

Every body deserves a decent burial, not just to be left to settle into a drawer in a cold room, or to be dumped in a mass grave like a pauper. A decent burial does not have to be fancy or cost tens of thousands of dollars; it just has to be conducted with dignity, esteem for the deceased, and some kind words about the special nature of the human race. You do not know the situation of the person and must not judge whether or not they had this or that personality. Committal should be with quiet propriety, in a proper container nicely made and appropriate and protective, and the rest of the ceremony carried out with honor. A chaplain from any department or hospital could be called on to perform the ceremony, adding that extra level of dignity.

There could also be agreement to let some of the bodies be used for medical science. As each person is different, there surely is something to learn from the condition of each person. Care must be taken in this very touchy issue, but perhaps it is a good idea in order to lessen the load in the morgue. Scientific advancement does not always take a smooth road, but there are times when it seems right to allow the use of bodies for the betterment of society and medical technology. Of course, as with any process involving the handling of the dead, there must be dignity exercised if the bodies are given to the use of medical science. There should be some kind of special blessing given for the hope that the cure for diseases will be found, so that the person will not have come on this earth in vain. Then let the body be placed in the hands of the capable and the honorable in the medical community, who will then make the best use of the gift to further the interests of health and science.

Divi Logan and ®EDUSHIRTS, Nashville and Chicago, ©2004 – 2012. Please correspond for permission-to-use data to the author at e-mail address d308gtb289@aol.com. Courtesy counts. Thank you for cooperating.

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