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25 Investigates: State Medical Examiner's Office still falling behind

by: Eric Rasmussen, Erin Smith Updated:

Families in Massachusetts are waiting months – even years – for autopsy results on their loved ones, according to a new state audit.

The report from the State Auditor’s Office found what Investigative Reporter Eric Rasmussen first uncovered last year – the state Medical Examiner’s Office is falling behind.

Jennifer Roldan, a 29-year-old mother of two, died in her sleep in 2015 in Everett. Her family waited more than a year to find out her cause of death.

The South Boston family of Matty King, a 27-year-old EMT, waited almost two years for word from the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Neither family received any answers about why their loved ones died until after 25 Investigates got involved.

Now, nearly a year after 25 Investigates first reported on the problem, the State Auditor is finally calling out the Medical Examiner’s Office for long delays in thousands of cases.

A newly released audit looking at operations at the agency from 2013 to 2016 found the Medical Examiner’s Office “did not… complete autopsy reports and death certificates in a timely manner.”

The report also noted 58 percent of autopsy reports during the audit period were not completed within 90 days.

The 90-day timeframe is the professional standard set by the National Association of Medical Examiners.

A spokesman for the Medical Examiner’s Office told 25 Investigates the opioid crisis and a national shortage of medical examiners available for hire were partially to blame for the delays.

The agency told 25 Investigates in an emailed statement:

“The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has implemented an aggressive work plan delivering considerable reductions in turnaround times since it was put in place in late 2015, and while those reforms are not fully reflected in the 2013-2016 audit report period, will continue to drive progress in providing answers for grieving families and for investigating authorities.”