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Lowndes may become regional hub for autopsies

 

Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant stands in front of the county’s disaster relief trailer during a tour of the coroner’s office, which has been renovated for autopsies.

Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant stands in front of the county’s disaster relief trailer during a tour of the coroner’s office, which has been renovated for autopsies.
Photo by: Ryan Poe

 

 

Ryan Poe

 

The Lowndes County Coroner''s Office is dead set on hosting its own autopsies and those of at least eight other Mississippi counties by January. 

 

Coroner Greg Merchant currently takes about three cadavers to Jackson per month, which costs about $9,600 to $12,000 per year in utility-use fees and travel expenses, he said. 

 

But if the county performs its own autopsies, the coroner''s office can cut expenses and bring in about $6,000 in utility-use fees from surrounding counties each month. 

 

"People from north Mississippi shouldn''t be driving to Jackson," said Merchant, who is also president of the Mississippi Coroners and Medical Examiners Association. "We should be providing our own services." 

 

There are two pathologist offices performing autopsies in the state, one in Jackson and one on the coast. 

 

Monroe County Coroner Alan Gurley said he spends about $700 to $800 just on travel expenses to Jackson for each of the 25 or so autopsies he has each year. 

 

"My county would definitely be doing our autopsies (in Lowndes County)," he said. "It would be a lot closer, a lot easier and would save the taxpayers a lot of money." 

 

Merchant has been in negotiations with an undisclosed medical group to provide a pathologist and staff at the coroner''s newly renovated office, he said. 

 

But before the company will commit to providing a pathologist, the coroner''s office has to get enough counties on board to make the office profitable. 

 

One pathologist needs to perform about 30 autopsies per month to remain profitable, Merchant said. The standard pathologist fee per autopsy is $1,000. 

 

"I don''t think we''ll have a problem getting those numbers," said Merchant, who has been talking with coroners as far away as Alcorn County. "It''s been well received by all the coroners I''ve talked to," he added. 

 

If the medical company contracts with the county, the county will not have to pay any fees other than the pathologist fee and utilities.

 

 

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment remy commented at 9/15/2010 7:04:00 PM:

I think with all the shootings we have around here we should easily be able to keep a pathologist busy with just Lowndes county. Heck, we might be able to hire a second one with other counties bringing their business here.

 

Article Comment negallow commented at 9/20/2010 10:01:00 AM:

Kudos to the writer of this article on a incredible and comical lead line. "Dead set" on having autopsies performed in Columbus....

 

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