Dr. Bennet Omalu of NFL concussion fame, announced his resignation as San Joaquin County’s chief medical examiner. Omalu’s colleague Susan Parson also resigned. In California the sheriff also serves as the coroner. Under Sheriff Steve Moore, they said, the county has failed to adequately investigate deaths in the county.
Hands chopped off bodies; corpses left to deteriorate; doctors pressured to classify officer-involved deaths as accidents rather than homicides: The two pathologists have been documenting events inside the Sheriff-Coroner’s operation for months. The pair publicly released more than 100 pages of memos this week detailing their allegations, in addition to sending them to the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors and the county district attorney in a push for a broader investigation.
“The sheriff does whatever he feels like doing as the coroner, in total disregard of bioethics, standards of practice of medicine and the generally accepted principles of medicine,” Omalu wrote in a memo dated Aug. 22.
Omalu is a nationally recognized forensic pathologist best known for his work on concussion-related brain injuries sustained by many football players. He is also a volunteer associate clinical professor at the University of California, Davis. His work was turned into the 2015 film “Concussion,” starring Will Smith as Omalu.
“The sheriff is interfering with the doctors’ ability to do their job and he is trying to influence their decisions,” said Patricia Hernandez, the union representative for both Omalu and Parson, who declined to be interviewed. “I would call it rogue mismanagement.”
San Joaquin County Sheriff’s office public information officer Dave Konecny did not return a call for comment. Moore posted a statement on Facebook on Nov. 28 that said he takes “my job extremely seriously.”
“As Coroner, the law requires me to make the final determination in the manner of death of each case processed here at the Office,” Moore wrote. “I want to make it clear that at no time did I attempt to control or influence (Parson’s) professional judgment and conclusions.”
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