The National Association of Medical Examiners on Tuesday defended the Hennepin County, Minnesota, medical examiner’s report on the death of George Floyd and cast doubts on the motivations of two pathologists who performed an independent autopsy on Floyd.
On Monday, the county released a report saying Floyd’s death was a homicide, and Floyd “experienced a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer(s).”
Separately on Monday, forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Allecia Wilson, a pathologist at the University of Michigan’s medical school, who were hired by the Floyd’s family, said that Floyd died from asphyxiation from compression injuries.
Where the reports differed was on the potential contribution made to Floyd’s death by underlying causes, including high blood pressure and clogged arteries. The county medical examiner listed these, along with fentanyl and methamphetamine use, as additional conditions. Baden told a news conference Monday he and Wilson found no evidence of the of any heart or artery conditions and said they did not believe any substances in Floyd’s blood would be relevant to his death.
The medical examiners association defended the inclusion of these conditions in the autopsy.
“Though the public may have concerns about the inclusion of underlying natural diseases, and drug intoxication as ‘contributing to death’ on Mr. Floyd’s death certificate, this is usual practice for Medical Examiners,” the group wrote in a statement.
“Death is a complex process and often occurs with multiple interacting contributing causes including physiologic stress brought about by physical altercations. Therefore, listing all provides a more comprehensive statement of the cause of death.”
Medical examiners “unlike private pathologists, do not have an incentive to come up with a certain view,” the group said.
“The Chief Medical Examiner in Minneapolis, Dr. Andrew Baker, is one of the most highly regarded and esteemed Forensic Pathologists in the United States,” the group added.
“He is a Past-President of NAME and known for his expertise and integrity.”