ALBANY — A question of whether one of the candidates for Dougherty County coroner has “performed” autopsies has become an issue between the campaigns.
Michael Fowler, who is challenging Coroner Emma Quimbley for the office in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, says he “has performed over 4,200 autopsies” in his campaign literature, a statement that Quimbley has challenged.
The individual who performs an autopsy for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the state’s top law enforcement agency, is a licensed physician known as the medical examiner, a GBI official said on Thursday.
“Michael Fowler did not perform autopsies for the GBI,” said John Bankhead, GBI spokesman. “Perform is not an accurate term for Fowler. Assist in a more appropriate term.”
Bankhead estimated that Fowler had assisted in more than 4,000 autopsies.
“Dissecting is performing the autopsy,” Fowler said when contacted for comment Thursday. “Performing the autopsy is the dissection of the body.”
In Fowler’s campaign office under a wall with funeral director and embalmer licenses from Georgia and Florida, he showed a GBI training video.
Under the autopsy topic, the video clearly showed Fowler engaged in the dissecting of the human body.
With audio that stated this was an autopsy being performed, it was Fowler’s duty to make incisions, remove, weigh and describe internal body organs and remove the brain, among other tasks.
The medical examiner watched and would do any microscopic examinations. The authority to direct the autopsy, make conclusions about the evidence and sign off on the autopsy remained with the medical examiner.
“It is the medical examiner’s job to determine the means and cause of death,” Bankhead said.
Quimbley has said she wanted county residents to know that during her tenure in office all bodies sent to the GBI lab were autopsied by licensed medical examiners.
Bankhead agreed with that statement, adding that although Fowler is an experienced forensic pathology assistant, all the autopsies at the GBI labs were performed by physicians.