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In NC medical examiner system, heavy autopsy caseloads raise risk of mistakes

Accurate autopsies help ensure that murderers don’t go free, that suspects aren’t wrongfully prosecuted and that spouses receive the life insurance payments they deserve. But in North Carolina, heavy caseloads are raising the risk of errors, a Charlotte Observer analysis has found.

Pathologists in North Carolina’s thinly staffed medical examiner system do as many as 10 autopsies in a single day, records show. Experts say thorough autopsies typically take two to four hours each, so it’s hard for pathologists to do more than four in a day.

The Observer also found that pathologists in the state’s chief medical examiner’s office in Raleigh routinely do more than 250 autopsies a year – heavy caseloads that experts say can lead to mistakes.

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