Mahoning could start performing autopsies
By Justin Wier
Mahoning County Coroner Dr. David Kennedy said his office could have a new forensic pathologist in place as soon as July.
Dr. Kennedy said he has identified two candidates, but one needs to obtain a license to practice in Ohio and the other cannot start until August.
The county has sent bodies to Cuyahoga County for autopsies since former forensic pathologist and deputy coroner Dr. Joseph Ohr became ill with the pancreatic cancer that led to his death in April 2017.
“I originally said it would take about a year, or a year and a half” to find a replacement for Dr. Ohr, Dr. Kennedy said.
Cuyahoga County charges the county $1,275 per autopsy, and it costs an additional $275 to transport a body to Cuyahoga County.
Dr. Ohr performed between 125 and 150 autopsies per year when he served as the county’s forensic pathologist.
Dr. Ohr, who joined the county in 2009, had a final annual salary of $158,922.
But Mahoning County saved about $50,000 a year by performing autopsies in Youngstown, Dr. Kennedy told The Vindicator last year.
Transporting bodies to Cuyahoga County also increases the time between death and release of a body to a funeral home from one to three days to three to seven days, he added.
Dr. Kennedy, who has been coroner since 1994 and earns a salary of $69,739, also has a private internal medicine practice. He works part time for the coroner’s office.
Under Ohio law, county coroners must be physicians, but they are not required to be forensic pathologists.
Dr. Humprhey Germaniuk, Trumbull County’s coroner, is also a licensed forensic pathologist.
State legislators have argued it would be impractical to require coroners to be forensic pathologists and would make life difficult for rural counties.
When the county returns to performing autopsies locally, it should avoid the complaints that resulted from poor ventilation in the morgue at the Oakhill Renaissance Place county office complex.
The commissioners voted last May to spend $534,000 to improve the morgue’s ventilation system.
In the final months of Dr. Ohr’s tenure, the coroner’s office resorted to scheduling autopsies on badly-decomposed bodies late in the day to reduce complaints about the odor.