It has seemed busier at work. My phone seems to go off a bit more often at night and my staff consultations and media calls continued through my recent brief vacation. So we looked at the numbers:
Last year (December 1, 2006 through March 12, 2007) we had a total of 1086 deaths looked at through our office, with 60 classified as “inquiries” and 54 classified as “inquest” cases. Inquiries are somewhat extended investigations to make decisions whether the case is a “natural” death or should be moved to the inquest category. Inquest cases are full investigations of cases that include questionable deaths, homicides, suicides, accidents and drug intoxication/overdose cases.
This year (December1, 2007 through March 12, 2008) we have looked at a total of 1137 deaths with 56 “inquiry” and 75 “inquest” cases. For the mathophobes, that is about a 40% increase in inquest cases, our most labor intensive case category. That is a huge increase in casework and staff involvement in just a year.
We really haven’t, as yet, looked at the jump in detail as to which categories of death have contributed to this increase. It is, however, my feeling that it is related to increased drug related deaths. For example, at our last case conference (which has replaced our jury inquest) 5 of the 10 deaths we reviewed for manner of death were directly drug-related and it is possible drugs contributed in at least 2 of the others.
We work hard in the office. Thank goodness I have such great staff willing and able to step up to this work load and to perform it most professionally. They are second to none.