After four years of “missing” drugs, gigantic case backlogs, and some possibly shady manipulation of Jeff Adachi’s autopsy report, the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office is accredited again — but only provisionally.
A few years back, the Sam Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office moved from the dilapidated concrete husk known as 850 Bryant to the sparkling new Bayview facility seen above. The Hall of Justice was considered outdated and inadequate for their tasks, creating an enormous backlog in death certificates being issued months past their due dates.
The backlog was bad enough that the office had its accreditation revoked by the National Association of Medical Examiners back in 2017. But there were… other issues. Notably, a lab technician stealing drugs from the pockets of bodies that came in, potentially tainting thousands of cases. And then there was the possibly falsified, but certainly badly handled autopsy report on the late public defender Jeff Adachi, a huge black eye on a rather prominent case.
That office is apparently getting its act together, to the degree that the Chronicle reports they have received their accreditation again from that same National Association of Medical Examiners. It’s only provisional, but a great sign that one of the more scandal-plagued offices in town had managed to go a year and a half with any major public screw-ups.
“My goal is to renew and maintain relationships with our stakeholders and regain the trust of the public,” said relatively new chief examiner Dr. Christopher Liverman. In the most prominent example of their increased effectiveness, they are processing death certificates within 90 days of the death about 80% of the time. Back in January of this year, that was only 35%.
Does it really matter if the Medical Examiner’s Office is accredited? Not really — it's a reputational thing. Accreditation is voluntary, and it's not like there’s any competition where the city could hire another office. But it’s an encouraging sign that here in San Francisco, the people tasked with determining a cause of death have gone from laughingstock to dead serious.
Image: SF Public Works