Autopsy Abuse Gets Personal

When race car driver Kevin Ward Jr. was run over and killed by NASCAR star Tony Stewart on a track in upstate NY Saturday, we saw self-destructive machismo at its worst.  Many think Steward didn’t try very hard to stay clear of Ward, mostly because Stewart is frequently a bully.  But then again if you watch the video of the incident, Ward is clearly strutting out into the travel lane wagging his finger at passing cars, unhappy that he was forced into the wall.  Another tough guy throwing caution to the wind to speak his mind.  Men being stupid with tragic consequences.

But I was struck by something else in this news story. Two days after the accident, the coroner announced that an autopsy had been done on Ward’s body and it indicated that he’d been killed by massive blunt trauma.  Now there’s a newsflash.  The guy was run over by a race car and he’d suffered blunt force trauma.  Duh.

It’s sad for my family because several weeks ago my cousin-in-law George Payton in upstate NY was fighting the flu and ended up dead.  He’d been to the doctor or ER 4 times and sent home each time.  Then he fell over dead.  The family requested an autopsy, but the coroner either forgot, or was lazy, or colluded with a malpractice-fearing hospital and didn’t do an autopsy. He wrote on the death certificate that George, a large man in so many ways, had died from complications of obesity.  I don’t know why George died, but if they do autopsies on race car drivers who die after being hit by a race car, why in the world wouldn’t they perform an autopsy in the sudden and puzzling death of a 51 year old man who had the flu but was otherwise apparently healthy.  Especially when neglect, incompetence or nefarious intent were possible factors.

That’s what autopsies are for.  Not to tell us the obvious.

–Jim Jewell


About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group ( Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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2 Responses to Autopsy Abuse Gets Personal

  1. I researched the NY law on this subject. Below is the applicable statute. Regarding Kevin Ward, the autopsy was required because of potential criminal charges against Tony Stewart. Having said that, Kevin Ward was foolish to walk on the track and show his 20 year old stupidity.

    As to cousin George, I have wondered what the autopsy results were since Debbie spoke of his death. It is possible to exhume his body and do the autopsy. Not a pleasant thought, yet possible.

    NY CNT Law 673 Deaths concerning which a coroner, coroner and coroner’s physician or medical examiner has jurisdiction to investigate. (Laws of New York (2013 Edition))

    § 673. Deaths concerning which a coroner, coroner and coroner’s
    physician or medical examiner has jurisdiction to investigate. 1. A
    coroner or medical examiner has jurisdiction and authority to
    investigate the death of every person dying within his county, or whose
    body is found within the county, which is or appears to be:
    (a) A violent death, whether by criminal violence, suicide or
    (b) A death caused by unlawful act or criminal neglect;
    (c) A death occurring in a suspicious, unusual or unexplained manner;
    (d) A death caused by suspected criminal abortion;
    (e) A death while unattended by a physician, so far as can be
    discovered, or where no physician able to certify the cause of death as
    provided in the public health law and in form as prescribed by the
    commissioner of health can be found;
    (f) A death of a person confined in a public institution other than a
    hospital, infirmary or nursing home.
    2. Except as provided in subdivision one of section six hundred
    seventy-four of this article, when a coroner is not a physician duly
    licensed to practice medicine in this state, the jurisdiction and
    authority specified in this section must be exercised jointly by the
    coroner and a coroner’s physician.

  2. Joy Payton Roe says:

    Thanks Jim for your thoughtful words. Thanks also to Kathleen for this thorough information on NY state law. FYI – the coroner told us he would perform the autopsy and George would be taken to Rochester the next day. It took some time to find out that the autopsy was never done. More lies, more incompetence, and more collusion to cover the hideous medical care that George and his family received.

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