Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I hope for no more crashes

First, to the individual who left the voice mail at my office, I did get it (although it is not likely he reads my blog). It was a lovely piece of work filled with invectives and scatological references.

Second, all the results of my office investigations are public record, so releasing a blood alcohol result (I should note that the release is only in response to request of the media, not in some sort of preemptive release) is action in accordance with the law.

I rarely get vitriolic voice mail with the release of investigation results. Apparently only certain cases fall into categories which certain individuals feel should be protected from public view.

The results were not released to harm anyone or their family or to denigrate anyone’s contributions to the community. The facts are that a driver of a motorcycle had been drinking and had an elevated blood alcohol. Yes it is my opinion (in agreement with Illinois law) that he should not have been driving with that much alcohol in his system. [I knew the DuPage County Deputy State’s Attorney who recently died while driving intoxicated and feel that releasing the results in her case was also the right thing to do.]

While my caller said releasing the blood alcohol results should also be exempt because it was a single vehicle crash, it is only by the grace of God that that was the case. I drive the street on which the crash occurred, as does my family, people I know and people I do not know, and I thank God no on else was injured or involved. I say this not to demean the gentleman involved, I know he was a very good police officer and a beloved family man. I pray for him and his family.

The facts are what they are. I hope there will not be any more crashes, no more lives lost before they have reached their full potential, no more family and friends mourning the loss of a loved one. I hope…

[FYI: Officials: Alcohol Played Factor in Officer’s Crash]


Anonymous said...

First of all I find it strange that no one else has had any comments on this topic, or is this just another case of selective publishing?

I would like to say that sure, infomation on how someone dies is public, but maybe, just maybe, (but doubtful) you could feel some level of compassion for family members and allow a time to grieve and cope before you unleash a media circus on them. Consideration for the dead and their families seems to be second to your need for media attention. This has nothing to do with someone being a policeman, or Government official, but a human, with friends and family who loved him. I have seen articles where the Coroner "is not releasing any information at this time", but not this time. Yes OUR friends and family drive that road, but they weren't, and you have done no one a preventative favor by blasting this into the media spotlight.

Dr. Richard Keller said...

No selective publishing, but all of the comments are reviewed first. I honor everyone's opinions, but I need to be certain they aren't ads (which are submitted frequently) and that certain words not appropriate for polite company are not published.

Anonymous said...

I find myself in agreement with "anonymous," and I too feel you lacked compassion. I don't see how releasing ANYONE'S B.A.C. immediately is useful. Although your intentions may not have been to discredit this man and what he has done for his community, I feel you did. I am very disappointed in you as a Coroner and as a human being. I can only hope you change this behavior in the future. I would think the families of the deceased are going through enough, why add to it? Why did that information need to be released so quickly? Why can it not wait until after the funeral? Give the information to the family first, if they want it made public immediately it should be up to them.
Even in cases where minors drive under the influence and end up in accidents, I believe the information should wait to be released. I am all for awareness and preventative measures and understand that in time, this type of information should come out.

Anonymous said...

Well, I understand what the other 'anonymous" people meant, and I suppose they do have a good point. YET- I also feel that maybe its time for people to wake up and realize why people are dying. Cops are humans, and like anyone else are prone to bad habits/vices. Maybe by reading the cause of death it may make even ONE person STOP and realize that maybe they could be the next statistic. Often I read the obit's and find myself wondering the cause of death for certain people..usually kids/teens/young adults..I wish these were also printed-maybe seeing the amount of drug overdoses or suicides will make people realize what is really going on. Even showing that a death was due to a certain disease may encourage others to be aware and possibly donate to the affiliated charity. Death has always been shrouded in such mystery. Why? Its part of life, and not something to be hidden. Keep up the good work Dr. I commend you!!

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone was saying that the cause of death should have been kept secret/hidden. No one likes secrets. But, there is a time and place for things, as natural as it is. I do not see how releasing the officer's, or anyone's, BAC prior to the end of the investigation is needed. I do not see why it could not have waited. I don't see how it did anything but cure someone's morbid curiosity.
I do not commend you Keller. And, I am just as disappointed as "anonymous" #2, and that's putting it nicely. Natural as death is, it takes compassion, which you lacked in this situation.
The BAC was not the officer's cause of death ... there is a difference. Did the alcohol have a part to play? Perhaps. But, the investigation was not completed. Giving out parts of an investigation before it is complete leads people to jump to conclusions in this "CSI" era, everyone thinks they can be an investigator.
If you want to know the cause of death for the obits you read, why don't you call the coroner's office ... it's public knowledge. I'm sure you can call the office for statistics and check the coroner's official website too.
Statistics are kept to keep people (family and friends) protected from public embarrassment, perhaps all the details of the deceaseds' lives is not our business ... HIPPA laws sound familiar?

Dr. Richard Keller said...

There was a heartfelt “note” in the “Talk of the County” section of the News Sun that I thought would be worthwhile including here (there have been other comments, but this seemed to need to be posted here):

“My son died six years ago in a motorcycle accident on that same stretch of Sheridan Road where Ken Free died. He was legally drunk and he was traveling nearly 110 mph. His poor judgment caused his death. He made a mistake that cost him his life. Does that mean that I should grieve less for him? We miss our children and grieve for them. How they died does not make a difference.”

Sherry said...

The fact of the matter is, this person broke the law and endangered others by driving under the influence. Dr. Keller made the responsible decision to release (upon request) this fact to the public. His first responsibility is to the citizens of this county, and that is what his decision reflected.

Anonymous said...

No one said it should not be released altogether. BUT, does releasing that information the day after the person died save your endangered loved one? Many people break the law. Many people's BAC is not slammed into the press. I was not aware the FAMILY asked that the BAC be released. Press requests a lot of information, a lot of it none of their or the public's business. And, so many times it is not released at all. So many times I have read about fatal crashes, and only much later is it released that alcohol was related. All in all ... who ever they want can stick up for what you did Coroner Keller. Their loved one will not be missed any less, they will not grieve any less. But, you have lost mine and many people's vote on how you go running to the papers with "wow factor" type information that need not be released immediately or at all.
I will just have to agree to disagree with others on this.