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State pathologist’s office ‘in flux’ and locum-dependent- acting head

By Mindo - 30th Sep 2019

The Office of the State Pathologist (OSP) is “currently in a state of flux” and support for the national forensic pathology service will be provided by a succession of locum pathologists until the relevant appointments are made, according to Acting State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis

In his forward to the Office’s annual report (2018), Dr Curtis noted that long-serving State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy had retired in late 2018 and his own retirement as acting state pathologist was imminent.

Dr Curtis described Prof Cassidy as a “superb” forensic pathologist who had provided twenty years of “dedicated service” to the State.

“Successors to these two posts have yet to be recruited,” wrote Dr Curtis. “In the interim, support for the provision of the national forensic pathology service by Deputy State Pathologist, Dr Linda Mulligan, and the Acting Deputy State Pathologist, Dr Kathleen Han Suyin, will be provided by a succession of locum pathologists.”

The OSP continues to pursue specialty recognition of forensic pathology with the Medical Council, supported by the Department of Justice and Equality and the Faculty of Pathology, RCPI. According to Dr Curtis, this will be “a critical factor” for the advancement of the forensic pathology service in Ireland.

 The Office’s main activity is the performance of post-mortem examinations in cases of sudden, unexplained death where a criminal or suspicious element is present. In approximately 15–20 per cent of cases, this also involves a scene visit. The pathologists deal with homicides, as well as a wide range of natural and unnatural deaths, such as road traffic accidents, other accidents and drug-related deaths.

During 2018, some 286 cases were dealt with by the OSP, compared with 261 in 2017 and 255 in 2016. The majority of these were state forensic cases (196) comprising 68.5 per cent of the total caseload.

On 29 days in 2018, one or more post-mortem examinations were carried out. In total, 61 of the 196 state cases (31 per cent) occurred on the same day as another case.

“This required the services of either two forensic pathologists in different parts of the country or for one pathologist to carry out post-mortem examinations in the same mortuary or to travel between mortuaries to conduct the post-mortems,” according to the report.

A Department of Justice spokesperson said the OSP is staffed by an acting state pathologist, an acting deputy state pathologist, a part-time locum assistant state pathologist and a locum forensic pathologist from Australia.

The positions of chief state pathologist and deputy state pathologist were advertised this month.

“Locums must have the same qualifications as advertised in the job spec above.  Whilst the Office is very busy, the service has not been compromised due to the hard-working, diligent and conscientious nature of the forensic pathologists who work for the OSP.”

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