Thu., March 4, 2010 4:44pm (EST)

Long Waits for Toxicology Reports
By Josephine Bennett
Updated: 4 years ago

MACON, Ga.  —  
Crime lab scenes (photo courtesy Georgia Bureau of Investigation)
Crime lab scenes (photo courtesy Georgia Bureau of Investigation)
At the end of the month three of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's eight crime labs will shut down for good, and for people waiting for test results the wait could grow even longer.

When a person dies and there is no obvious cause like a stroke, heart attack, or accident, the coroner orders an autopsy. That procedure often includes a toxicology screen to help find the cause of death according to Vanita Hullander with the Georgia Coroner's Association.

"If there's nothing that's pretty obvious at the time of death, and especially on a younger person that appears to be healthy, then we're dependent on toxicology reports before we can get a complete sign out."

Hullander says for most counties it means sending the body to the GBI crime lab. The current wait for toxicology results can be as long as six months. Until those results are in families cannot get a death certificate. Without it they cannot access insurance, social security, or bank accounts. Hullander worries when the three labs close the wait could grow even longer.