Friday, May 6, 2016

Let's go back to the coroner

"Still" by Damien Hirst, Art Institute of Chicago

     Cook County Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Cina announced his retirement Wednesday, claiming a desire to seek a "more peaceful lifestyle."
     Which immediately raises the question: What about his four-year tenure wasn't peaceful?
     Perhaps he was referring to the dramatic press conference where he revealed that teenager Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times, 14 while lying in the street, dying.
     Oh right. There was no such press conference. Cina's term was distinguished by a big hike in funding, allowing him to hire more staff and modernize the medical examiner's office, and though we played connect-the-dots last week, I would be so bold to suggest that those two elements — his keeping mum and his being served a big heaping slice of county pie — are not unrelated. Just a theory.
      I'd love to ask him about it, but no interviews, at least not with me. Then again, I'm the one who pointed out when he showed up that he planned to keep his $5,000-a-day forensic consultancy sideline. That kind of thing tends to sour relations.
     Not so for his predecessor, Dr. Nancy Jones, who had a habit of articulating medical findings, even ones that her bosses found unwelcome. Such as in 2009 when she said that Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott committed suicide, even though Scott's pal, Mayor Richard M. Daley, and Scott's family preferred to dwell in an alternate universe of flimsy conjecture. Daley threw Jones under the bus, and her staff passed around photographs of the messes they were supposed to be cleaning up.....

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  1. Ah, very good. Now, we hear "the rest of the story."


  2. Not sure exactly what Dr. Cina did wrong. He was hired to modernize the operation and he seems to have succeded. That he got a lot of help and his predecessor was probably treated unfairly is true but that's a familiar story and one I've seen play out over the years in both public and private life. Guy struggles managing an under-resourced operation until things get so bad he's replaced by somebody who's given all the help he had been asking for. And the new guy gets all the credit for fixing things. In the military, where change of command is a scheduled event, I've seen commanders win acclaim for carrying out "solutions" designed by their predecessors. Dr. Jones seemed a nice peraon and a competent physician, but maybe a poor manager and inept politician. Or perhaps she was just unlucky.

    Maybe Cina could have inserted himself in the Laquan McDonald case, but I'm not sure he would have been on firm legal grounds doing so, since, like it or not, proceeds of an ongoing investigation are protected.

    Tom Evans

  3. I have to say, I never quite understood that heat wave stuff in 1995. I don't feel like looking it up, but the numbers the ME reported that year as heat-related deaths were many times any such number before or since. I don't think conditions in the city could have been that much worse, in terms of weather, power outages or numbers of people without air conditioning, in that particular year compared with all the others.

    So what was the deal? Was Donoghue using different criteria for what constituted a heat-related death? If so, was he off base, or were all the others?

    I understand that doctors/coroners under certain circumstances are under enormous pressure to fudge a cause of death, or even to lie. The German army doctors at Stalingrad kept writing that soldiers were dying of "exhaustion" or "stress" instead of malnutrition. Ditto for North Korean doctors during the worst famine years in the early aughts.

    But Chicago, one-party rule notwithstanding, is not Nazi Germany or North Korea. Even given Daley's enormous and eggshell-fragile ego, it just seems weird to think he would pressure its MEs into lying about heat stress. Call me naive, but I'm not quite prepared to go that far in my conspiracy beliefs.

    1. I remember the heat wave & knew two of those who died.
      Daley was livid, because Donoghue not only told the truth, but also said the city was doing a terrible job at getting to those who were at high risk for death during the heat wave.
      Daley was extremely thin skinned & still is.
      You must remember, that Chicago buildings, especially the older ones, weren't built for summer, they were built for winter & thus don't cool off at night & the low temperature at my house each morning at 6 AM, was 92 degrees & I'm one mile from the lake, which kept city temperatures much hotter than those west of the Cook/DuPage county line, where the majority of construction is air conditioned.
      No city or country seems to be prepared for extreme heat. Since the 1995 heat wave here, there have been heat waves in Greece & Southern Europe that killed thousands & at least one in India that also killed thousands.
      As much as the rest of the world loves the metric system, the Fahrenheit Scale is far better for humans & our ability to withstand heat or cold.
      Temperatures above 100, extremely stress the body & the elderly & unhealthy just can't take it, as our bodies produce heat, not cold.


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