FOX25 Investigates: Another family comes forward in autopsy paperwork backlog

By: Eric Rasmussen , Erin Smith

Updated:

UPDATE: Another grieving family waiting for more than a year for an autopsy report renews questions on whether delays at the state Medical Examiner’s Office is due to a backlog of paperwork – not lab testing.

The mother of Matthew “Matty” King, who died at age 27, told FOX25 Investigative Reporter Eric Rasmussen she’s been waiting on answers since her son, an EMT from South Boston, died in his sleep on Feb. 18, 2015.

“Every day you wake up, you go to sleep – that's all you think about,” Joanne King told FOX25 Investigates. “What happened to him? Why? You don't know… He helped save people. He saved so many lives. And he's taken away and you can't find out what happened to him.”

King said she was told all testing and the autopsy have been completed, but the Medical Examiner’s Office has yet to type up the autopsy report.

“I believe it's sitting in the office,” said King. “It's all sitting there just waiting to get looked through to come up with an answer.”

ORIGINAL STORY: The heartbroken family of Jennifer Roldan waited more than a year for answers about her sudden death and only received her autopsy report after FOX25 Investigates got involved – raising new questions about why there are still delays at the state Medical Examiner’s Office.

FOX25 uncovered that the Roldan family is among hundreds in Massachusetts waiting for months – and even years – for the autopsy results for their loved ones.

FOX25 Investigates found the state Medical Examiner is still falling short of professional standards. The National Association of Medical Examiners has continued to give the state only provisional accreditation since 2013 – meaning the office has failed to complete 90 percent of autopsy reports in 90 days.

FOX25 Investigates first met the Roldan family last month – and they told Investigative Reporter Eric Rasmussen they had been calling the Medical Examiner’s Office twice a month for more than a year seeking the cause of death for Jennifer Roldan, a 29-year-old mother of two who died in her sleep on July 18, 2015 in Everett.

The cause of death on Jennifer Roldan’s death certificate remained “pending” and her mother Sheila told FOX25 the office said they were still awaiting a toxicology report from the State Police lab in Maynard.

“It would mean so much,” Sheila Roldan told FOX25 Investigative Reporter Eric Rasmussen. “It would give us closure so we know exactly what happened to her.”

After FOX25 Investigates contacted the Medical Examiner’s Office about Jennifer Roldan’s case, her mother finally received an autopsy report showing her daughter’s cause of death as diabetic ketoacidosis.

But the records also raise questions about why it took so long to complete Jennifer Roldan’s autopsy report.

State Police lab officials signed and dated Jennifer Roldan’s completed toxicology report on Aug. 25, 2015 – about a month after her death.
           
“I looked at it like, you guys gave them a call,” Sheila Roldan told FOX25. “That's what made them give me my answers and send this to me.”

Jennifer’s sister, Jessica Roldan, told FOX25 Investigates that the delay doesn’t make sense.

“It shouldn't have taken that long,” she said. “Dates don't add up. Their attitude toward grieving families who want answers are just not OK.”

The Medical Examiner’s Office declined repeated requests for an on-camera interview, saying it doesn’t discuss individual cases.

A spokesman told FOX25 Investigates the office has had problems recruiting, hiring and retaining staff medical examiners and in an email wrote, “While the office is not yet meeting the ‘90% in 90 days’ goal, turnaround times have been cut significantly since October 2015."

Jennifer Roldan’s family says learning her cause of death was critical to answering questions for her two children and they hope reducing delays for other can help flag genetic or environmental risks for surviving family members – who they say shouldn’t have to wait so long for answers.

Jessica Roldan told FOX25, “I really wonder how many other families have been waiting more than a year and just think that this is normal.”

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