VDH find claims of corruption inside Medical Examiner’s Office unsubstantiated

Posted at 5:20 PM, Jul 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-20 17:26:53-04

RICHMOND, Va. — After conducting an internal investigation into allegations of corruption inside the Virginia Medical Examiner’s Office, the Virginia Department of Health has concluded the claims made against the office are unsubstantiated.

This comes after then Assistant Chief Medical Examiner Kevin Whaley made allegations against the office saying, “We’re supposed to be in the best interest of our patients… We`re not acting in that fashion.”

In a sit-down with CBS 6, Whaley expressed concerns with the way he said his office sold brains to the National Institutes of Health, rushed autopsy reports, and examiners being subtly urged to show bias toward law enforcement.

Dr. Marissa Levine, the State Health Commissioner for the Virginia Department of Health, said outside and independent investigators led the investigation into Whaley’s allegations.

“VDH takes all allegations seriously and values the integrity of its offices and the personal privacy of its employees,” she wrote in a statement. “The work of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is an important part of protecting and promoting the health of all Virginians.  Based on the facts available to date, I accept the conclusion of the investigation that the allegations are unsubstantiated.”

Former Assistant Chief Medical Examiner Kevin Whaley

Former Assistant Chief Medical Examiner Kevin Whaley

After Whaley went public with accusations in late March he was placed on pre-disciplinary leave with pay pending an agency investigation into whether disciplinary action may be appropriate.

After CBS 6’s investigation aired, Whaley received an extension for paid pre-disciplinary leave multiple times.

CBS 6 has reached out to Whaley after the investigation’s findings. We are waiting to hear back.

Whaley allegations

Among Whaley’s concerns are the way he said his office sells brains to the National Institutes of Health.

That happens if a victim’s family agrees to donate the brain for research.

“The thing is for each brain we supply to NIH the office gets $6,250. Now, the family is never made aware of that, so we`re getting paid per brain,” Whaley said.

Whaley provided us with what he claims to be an amended contract that shows NIH agreed to pay the state a total of $150,000 in exchange for two dozen brains.

He said that is an excessively high amount given the short time it takes to extract a brain and send it to the NIH. Whaley said it makes him question the fees his office charges others.

“I have a hard time telling families you can`t have an autopsy report if you don`t have $40 when I know we just got paid $6,250 for a brain,” Whaley said.

Whaley also alleges that under the Chief Medical Examiner, Doctor William Gormley, examiners are subtly being urged to show bias toward law enforcement.

“In fact, we’ve had cases in the back with law enforcement involved shootings where the chief has actually come back and joked with law enforcement, ‘Well, they would have died if you`d tasered them anyways….’ So it sort of sends a subtle message to us that, yeah… if you`re going to err on the side, you need to err on the side of law enforcement,” Whaley said. “We have to be completely unbiased. I mean our sole job is to be an advocate for the deceased.”

Finally, Whaley alleged that after one of his colleagues recently retired, leaving the Richmond office with two assistant chief medical examiners instead of three, the pair was instructed to finish autopsy reports as quickly as possible, and told that any mistakes they made would be caught in court.

“Is it possible that mistakes made in your office had an impact on the outcome of a case?” Hipolit asked Whaley.

“I know there are people that have been falsely convicted because of things that have happened in the office… and people that have walked that are guilty,” Whaley responded.

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