Medical examiner shares statistics

By Emily Bialkowski

Caledonia Argus


There weren’t any homicides in Houston County in 2012 and, to date, none in 2013 either. This notable statistic and others were presented to the Houston County Board of Commissioners Sept. 3 by  Dr. R. Ross Reichard of the Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner’s Office.

The organization provides medical examiner services to Houston County at a cost of $2.75 per capita per year. A medical examiner is called upon when there is a sudden, violent, unexpected or suspicious death and determines the cause and manner of death and certifies deaths that are reported to him.

Not all deaths require the medical examiner’s expertise.

In 2012, 49 Houston County cases were reported to the medical examiner. So far in 2013, 24 were reported.

In 2012, the manner of death reported after postmortem examination included:

• Three suicides.

• 39 natural causes.

• Two undetermined.

• Five accidents.

Also in 2012, deaths by age group included:

• Ages 26 to 44, two deaths.

• Ages 45 to 64, 13 deaths.

• Ages 65-plus, 34 deaths.

“This is a pretty granular look at what’s happening with the population,” Reichard told the board, noting that it’s typical to see larger numbers of older citizens passing rather than younger.

He also pointed out that in 2012 there were three cases of death by a fall.

“Falls is a category people don’t appreciate and is usually reflected in elderly population,” he said.

So far in 2013 there have been two deaths attributed to falls.

As of Aug. 14, 2013, the numbers are:

• Three suicides.

• 18 natural causes.

• Three accidents.

Deaths in the same time period by age group are:

• Ages 26 to 44, four deaths.

• Ages 45 to 64, two deaths

• Ages 65-plus, 18 deaths.

This was the first year Houston County contracted with the Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner’s Office. The county had previously used the Mayo system, which could no longer provide the service.

Reichard was pressed by two commissioners when he opened the presentation up for questions. Commissioners Judy Storlie and Dana Kjome wanted to know how communication was going with local funeral directors.

“I think the transition has gone pretty smoothly with no bumps in the road,” Reichard said.

But Storlie and Kjome said they have been contacted by funeral directors in Spring Grove and La Crescent, respectively, who said they ran into issues.

“They don’t know how to deal with you procedurally due to the change from Mayo,” Storlie said.

Reichard said he was unaware of any complaints. He said every effort will be made to alleviate confusion. “Communication is the key to this,” he said. No action was taken on the matter, as the presentation was informative in nature.