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Autopsies Could Be A Thing Of The Past In Tulsa

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The state's medical examiner will be in Tulsa on Tuesday to meet with law enforcement about his plan to eliminate autopsies in the eastern part of Oklahoma. The state's medical examiner will be in Tulsa on Tuesday to meet with law enforcement about his plan to eliminate autopsies in the eastern part of Oklahoma.
Law enforcement officials across Green Country say the plan would cause headaches and cost money that's not in the budget. Law enforcement officials across Green Country say the plan would cause headaches and cost money that's not in the budget.
The state medical examiner wants to eliminate autopsies in Tulsa.  Dr. Jeffrey Gofton wants all autopsies performed in Oklahoma City. The state medical examiner wants to eliminate autopsies in Tulsa. Dr. Jeffrey Gofton wants all autopsies performed in Oklahoma City.

The state's medical examiner will be in Tulsa on Tuesday to meet with law enforcement about his plan to eliminate autopsies in the eastern part of Oklahoma.  The plan has come under fire by police and prosecutors who say it will slow justice and cost taxpayers money.  News On 6 anchor Scott Thompson if it goes on as scheduled, autopsies will no longer be performed in Tulsa County beginning April 1st.

Law enforcement officials across Green Country say the plan would cause headaches and cost money that's not in the budget.

One of the most important tools for law enforcement investigating a crime is the autopsy.  It can make or break a case. This Tulsa County exam room hosts autopsies from across eastern Oklahoma.  In 2006, a little more than 1,900 autopsies from 21 counties were performed in Tulsa.  That makes up 41% of the cases the medical examiner's office examined or autopsied statewide. 

The state medical examiner wants to eliminate autopsies in Tulsa.  Dr. Jeffrey Gofton wants all autopsies performed in Oklahoma City.  He says it would make the Medical Examiner's office more efficient.

"The cost to law enforcement in all of this will be absolutely astronomical," said Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris.

D.A. Harris is an outspoken critic of the plan.

"There could be some state savings in consolidation but on the other side of the ledger, which they haven't looked at yet, is what is going to be the flip-side cost to these counties who are on a shoestring budget already," said D.A. Harris.

D.A. Harris says he has 23 attorneys in his office handling roughly 50 felony cases at one time.  Dr. Gofton's plan, he says, would force law enforcement to spend valuable time and taxpayer money driving to Oklahoma City.

A spokesman for the medical examiner's office says there are good reasons for the change.  He says the office tried, but couldn't find any pathologists to work in Tulsa. With a certain number of pathologists needed for national accreditation and the review scheduled for July, Dr. Gofton had no choice, adding the new process will offer better service to all Oklahomans.

D.A. Harris disagrees and says the plan could delay peace of mind for a grieving family.

"The wheels of justice turn slowly anyway. This is one more hurdle for them to try and get over. Let's not create hurdles, let's take hurdles away," said D.A. Harris.

Funeral home directors say the plan has the potential to become an inconvenience for the families of people whose death is not under investigation, but have requested an autopsy.  Otherwise they do not expect any major problems.

The state medical examiner is scheduled to meet Tuesday morning with Tim Harris, Tulsa Police Chief Ron Palmer and other law enforcement officials from across the area.

We'll be sure to follow the meeting and have any new developments.

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