Lubbock based private pathology lab clarifies role in performing autopsies

KAMC News

After a man was found dead at Plainview Country Club last Monday, officials sent his body to South Plains Forensic Pathology to look into his death. 

The private practice examines a body anytime someone dies unexpectedly or unnaturally beyond the Lubbock County lines, said Sarah Parsons, the office manager for South Plains Forensic Pathology. 

The privately owned medical practice provides forensic pathology services for 80 counties of West Texas, except for Lubbock County. Parsons explained that is the role of the Lubbock County Medical Examiner. 

“If a county has more than a million people, they have to have a medical examiner,” Parsons clarified. “If they have less than a million people, it can be left up to the county charter to establish a medical examiner’s office or the county may contract with a private provider.”

Since 2009, board certified forensic pathologists at South Plains Forensic Pathology have conducted autopsies on more than 2,500 bodies, including those involved in train accidents, plane crashes, poisonings, and homicides. 

Parsons explained the main difference between them and the Medical Examiner’s Office is that the medical examiner is appointed while they are privately owned.

“Medical examiners sign a death certificate. A forensic pathologist determines the manner and mode of death but doesn’t have to sign the death certificate,” said Parsons.

Despite not investigating deaths within Lubbock County, Parson’s said the one exception is if someone requests but cannot get a body autopsied through the county. 

“That’s when they come to us,” said Parsons. 

The  next closest private forensic pathology practices are in El Paso and Tyler, according to Parsons.  

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