As the opioid epidemic rages across Appalachia, one grim consequence has played out in Kentucky’s medical examiner’s office: A staggering increase in autopsy requests.
Autopsy requests for overdose deaths have jumped more than 26 percent since 2013, part of an overall 18 percent increase of autopsy requests statewide. The increase has coincided with a 39 percent increase in drug overdose deaths during that same time.
The increase has overwhelmed the State Medical Examiner’s Office, which consists of nine doctors for the entire state. And it comes amid a national shortage of forensic pathologists that makes it difficult to hire and retain qualified people.