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Maryland Chief Medical Examiner David Fowler discusses equipment and procedures at the office's toxicology lab.
Maryland Chief Medical Examiner David Fowler discusses equipment and procedures at the office's toxicology lab. (Photo by Ben Weathers - The Capi / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

We were distressed to learn that Dr. David Fowler, Maryland’s outstanding chief medical examiner for the past 17 years, is retiring (“Long-serving chief of Maryland medical examiner’s office steps aside amid high death toll,” Nov. 26). Worse, it appears that a key aspect of his decision is because the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has not been fully funded, especially as the workload — driven by overdose deaths and crime — has increased dramatically and outstripped resources.

Most citizens don’t know about or appreciate the importance of this office. It helps solve murders, identify dangerous drugs, spot communicable disease outbreaks and reduce errors in hospitals. The office is specifically structured to be independent from law enforcement and political influence so that its forensic investigations can be guided fully by the best available science. Many states and jurisdictions around the country have a system of elected coroners who may not have any training at all in the complex medical specialty of forensic pathology.

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We are fortunate in Maryland to have a professional medical examiners staff and state-of-the-art facility, and we need to keep it that way. Further, who would consider taking Dr. Fowler’s job knowing up front that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is not adequately supported? What sort of candidate would apply to step into that situation? Dr. Fowler is due to step down at the end of this year. We hope he will stay on until a qualified successor is found and the underlying problems are addressed.

We call on Gov. Larry Hogan, the Maryland Department of Health and our legislative colleagues to investigate this issue and ensure this office continues to function at the same exceptional level it always has.

Dr. Terri Hill and Dr. Clarence Lam

The writers, both Democrats representing District 12 (Baltimore and Howard counties), are members of the Maryland House of Delegates and Maryland Senate, respectively.

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