What nobody likes to think about

The operations of a local coroner’s office are not something at the forefront of most peoples’ thoughts and the one in Lafourche Parish is no exception.

What most people who think about such things do know is that Dr. John King, who is the coroner, has done a commendable job of making things run smoothly, which is why nobody has to think about it much.

Dr. King has served in this capacity for more than a decade, and has assembled a staff that proves their worth time and again.

One of the biggest assets he has is Mark Goldman, the chief investigator, who used to work for Jefferson Parish but now makes his mark here. He is much sought after as a speaker for seminars.

The problem this office has had for many years now is the space it must work in, and if you were to visit it would be quite obvious that the quarters are lacking and in some ways not so obvious, because the problems include things that the public in general doesn’t get to see.

The coroner made a pitch last week before the Lafourche Parish Council, explaining the need for a new base of operations, which has already been chosen and would be moving ahead, except the parish president Jimmy Cantrelle, has not yet indicated when he will turn loose the money.

The Parish Council has already okayed the budget plan, and then Cantrelle vetoed it, along with a lot of other important things the Council was funding. The Council over-rode the veto and Cantrelle has still not indicated when he will sign.

Meanwhile the coroner continues working with the space he has.

The space is bound by a fence which is 51 feet from the grounds of an elementary school, which means kids on school busses have the potential of witnessing pickups and drop-offs of bodies, which is something that doesn’t need to happen.

The not-so obvious issues include the difficulty that occurs when a body comes in that has been decomposing for a while. The coroner has ways for dealing with this, but sometimes things don’t go so well.

People come to the coroner’s office for lots of reasons, among them giving information and signing papers for orders of protective custody, meaning that when a person can’t care for themselves or pose a danger to others they can be taken to a doctor whether they want to go or not.

There have been times when this very private business has had to be conducted in an outside waiting room without any kind of privacy. This is to shield them from what smells bad inside the offices.

And then there is the matter of cooling space. The cooler in the present quarters can hold five bodies easily. Monday was a good day — there were two adults and two babies and the babies are leaving Tuesday. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be a sudden influx. There is an eighteen-wheeler which can accommodate more and it hasn’t been used since Gustav but it’s an option nobody wants to have to deal with if possible. Funeral homes get backed up and can’t take bodies when they are ready to leave the coroner’s office and there are other delays.

It’s the kind of thing nobody much likes to think about.

But somebody has to. Dr. King and his people do every day. It’s something the parish president needs to give some thought to as well.