died of asthma attack: Curtis Marshall

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Fuad: Autopsy doctors not qualified

Health Minister blames hasty reports for differences in soldier's cause of death

By Rickie Ramdass rickie.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

THE discrepancies in the autopsy reports of soldier Curtis Marshall were as a result of the non-qualification of the forensic pathologists who conducted the post-mortems.

This is according to Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan yesterday.

In a telephone interview, Khan said neither Dr Hubert Daisley nor Dr Eastlyn McDonald-Burris—both of whom performed the autopsies— were qualified as forensic pathologists as far as the Medical Board was concerned.

"As far as I am aware, the only doctor who is a forensic pathologist in this country, being registered with the Medical Board, is Dr (Valery) Alexandrov," said Khan.

He said oftentimes, pathologists delivered results based on what they believe the cause of death to be and not based on a thorough investigation.

"You cannot just say that this person died from something because that is what you want to believe and not based on the findings of the (post-mortem) investigation," he said.

He said this, coupled with the haste in which autopsy reports were delivered to the families of deceased individuals, also often led to errors being made.

Khan pointed out that internationally, pathologists ensured they identified the exact cause of death of an individual before releasing findings.

"Take the death of Michael Jackson, for example. When he died, the doctors did not say a single word about the autopsy until they were absolutely certain what it was. It was only about three months later when a full and thorough investigation was done that the results were released.

So this is a serious matter because when you make decisions that could potentially send someone to the gallows or have them set free, you need to be precise in what you are doing," said Khan.

He also referred to the Brad Boyce manslaughter trial in 1998 before then High Court Judge Herbert Volney, in which Boyce was acquitted on a charge of killing 19-year-old Jason Johnson.

Boyce walked free after Volney threw out the evidence of pathologist Dr Hughvon Des Vignes on the basis that he was not qualified as a forensic pathologist and, therefore, was not in a position to say how Johnson died.

Last Thursday, Dr Daisley apologised to the soldier's family, saying Marshall was not murdered as he initially stated but may have died as a result of an asthma attack.

Two Saturdays ago, Lance Corporal Marshall, 31, was found lying in an unconscious state in the vicinity of the clothing and equipment stores at the Defence Force Headquarters in Chaguaramas.

He was rushed to the Community Hospital of Seventh-Day Adventists in Cocorite where he was pronounced dead less than two hours later.

Following his death, an autopsy was performed at the Forensic Science Centre in Federation Park, St James, by McDonald-Burris.

The results of that autopsy concluded that Marshall was strangled.

On the same day, preliminary results of a second autopsy conducted by Daisley at Simpson's Memorial Funeral Chapel in Laventille confirmed the results of the first autopsy.

Daisley had also stated Marshall was dealt several blows to the back of the head.

Last Thursday, Daisley conducted further tests on Marshall's body and came to the conclusion the soldier was not murdered but, instead, may have died as a result of asthma.

The final results will be released on Wednesday, said Marshall's family.

Senior police officers said yesterday that despite the latest autopsy concluding that Marshall possibly died as a result of an asthma attack, they were still treating the case as a murder until the necessary paperwork from the Forensic Science Centre is delivered to them, indicating his death was not as a result of foul play.

Marshall will be buried tomorrow.

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