WINSTON-SALEM, N.C -- Over the past year, North Carolina lawmakers have been seeing increased complaints regarding a backlog in autopsies done in our state. It began in reference to criminal complaints, but they have also been receiving letters from family members waiting to find out how their loved ones died.
"There are actually very heart-wrenching cases where it's taken years before they've got closure on the death of a loved one," said Representative Donny Lambeth, who is also a former president of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. "Obviously if it's a criminal case there's a higher priority, but it still takes too long."
Lambeth says that, due to a lack of funding, autopsy centers throughout our state are out of date and deteriorating. He says the autopsy center in Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is one of those out of date centers.
"The center here at Wake Forest Baptist goes back to the original building, which goes back into the 40s and 50s. These are very old facilities," said Lambeth. "It's old, it's dingy, it's not very bright in there and it's like you see on TV in some cases."
Lambeth says he and fellow lawmakers have begun to look at ways to fund new autopsy centers and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center's is one of those. He says the new autopsy center, whether it is on a new site or rebuilt at the old one, would cost upwards of $12 million.
"The goal of the plan is to modernize our regional autopsy centers so they can be more responsive and have the current technologies to be able to do the investigations they need to do," he said.
Lambeth says there is some funding set aside for such projects in the current budget, but finding the rest of the money is something that would have to be done through multiple budget cycles in coming years.
"This is a road map. It's a plan to be able to get us to where we ultimately need to get to. How long it takes to get there I think is still the open issue," he said.