Telling stories of the dead: Medical examiner is passionate about unusual job
Families seek understanding in death of loved ones
But he admits there is a heaviness to the job that requires "defense mechanisms." It would be too much to handle if he focused solely on the tragedy of each death, but he says it's a fine line between being guarded and being callous.
"The trick comes in finding the right balance between protecting your ability to do the job right and not becoming hardened," Grey said. "For me, at least, that's sort of the area where you have to be careful. … Our job is as much for the living as it is for the deceased, because if I can't talk to and explain things to a family or a prosecutor or a cop or whoever needs to know that information, then I haven't done my job right."
Family and friends seek answers, law enforcement and attorneys want details to find the truth, and the public needs to be informed about what is killing people. Meeting these demands continues to grow.
In 2011, two doctors were added to the four to meet demand. But the case load began growing again in 2012 when motor vehicle accidents came under the medical examiner's jurisdiction.
Grey said the National Association of Medical Examiners will not give accreditation to an office in which pathologists do more than 325 autopsies a year. The recommended amount is 250 autopsies a year for one pathologist, assuming the pathologist has no other duties.
Last year, the six pathologists at the Utah Medical Examiner's Office performed close to 1,987 autopsies — about 331 autopsies each.
Grey personally performed 405 autopsies and exams in 1991 with that number rising to 516 autopsies and external exams by 2007. The numbers went down to 371 in 2011 and 351 in 2012, but are still above recommended levels.
Meantime, the office on the whole saw an uptick in caseload. A total of 2,206 cases were handled in 2007, with the caseload dropping as low as 1,928 in 2010. Last year the numbers again increased, to a total of 2,430 cases.
"We don't control our workload," Grey said. "That's controlled by a much higher power than me."
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