Philly’s new chief pathologist contends with understaffing, disorder, and a troubled legacy at medical examiner’s office

October 24, 2022

Types : In the News

A department in need of a shake-up has a new boss.

Soon after starting her job, Philadelphia’s newest chief medical examiner was dismayed to learn some of city’s dead arrived at her office in the back of a police car.

A victim of a sudden death should be transported by a medical examiner’s staffer, who can bring a different, and important, expertise to a scene that police officer may not have, said Constance DiAngelo, who started at the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office three months ago.

She added it to the list of issues in need of fixing at a city office where missteps can determine whether families get closure after a loved one’s death.

The medical examiner’s office, responsible for establishing cause and manner of death
for homicides, overdoses, and other sudden or unexplained deaths a year, is straining to keep up with record overdose deaths and homicides in the past two years. It is
understaffed. Policies aren’t documented. Instead rules are established through a
haphazard array of memos and word of mouth. Victims arrive in the back of police
cars because there often isn’t anyone to send to the scene. DiAngelo is taking the reins of an office the city’s mayor has said is in need of reform.