LUBBOCK, Texas — On Friday afternoon, NAAG Pathology Labs issued a statement saying it has a deal in principle with Lubbock County to finish 172 death cases.
NAAG was the company that administered the office of Lubbock County Medical Examiner until recently. In September, state and federal investigators raided the office of medical examiner and took documents.
“Because of pending investigations, this agreement will have to be reviewed by the U.S. Attorney’s office,” NAAG said.
On October 7, Lubbock County Commissioners appointed a new interim Chief Medical Examiner. Commissioners also made arrangements to send many death cases from now on to Tarrant County for autopsies.
NAAG said the current medical examiner, Dr. John Lang, will prioritize the 172 cases to help those who most urgently need death certificates.
The following is a statement from NAAG:
We are pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement in principle with Lubbock County concerning the final disposition of 172 open cases at the medical examiner’s office.
NAAG appreciates the hard work and effort of the Lubbock County Civil District Attorney’s Office in helping resolve these issues without the toxic politics that we have seen in the past. This process could have been completed weeks ago if Lubbock County had shown a willingness to cooperate as requested repeatedly by NAAG and put the needs of grieving families over internal political considerations.
Under the agreement, Lubbock County will arrange and pay for the shipping of tissue samples and slides from our offices in California in a manner that will ensure the integrity of the materials and the chain of custody necessary for any criminal cases. The material has been maintained in California at NAAG’s expense, with the knowledge and approval of the county, because of the availability of medical experts who are not in Lubbock and significant concerns about security of the materials at the medical examiner’s office.
NAAG will complete certain paperwork for the 172 open cases and forward that information to the current medical examiner so that he can make the final determination on cause of death and issue death certificates. Contrary to assertions by some, this information was never “removed” from Lubbock County and has always been stored in a secure digital platform, as is the norm for such information in the modern era.
The current medical examiner will provide a prioritized list of open cases so that we can help address those who are in most urgent need of death certificates.
Because of pending investigations, this agreement will have to be reviewed by the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Our goal as professional forensic pathologists has always been to respect the integrity of the criminal justice system and the important role medical examiners play in this process. While we were able to make many improvements in the office there is still much work that needs to be done and we repeat that politics should have no role in that process.