Cognitive Bias in Forensic Pathology Decisions was published today by Journal of Forensic Sciences…
From the abstract “We examined all death certificates issued during a 10-year period in the State of Nevada in the United States for children under the age of six.” /2
We also conducted an experiment with 133 forensic pathologists in which we tested whether knowledge of irrelevant non-medical information that should have no bearing on fo- rensic pathologists’ decisions influenced their manner of death determinations. /3
The dataset of death certificates indicated that forensic pathologists were more likely to rule "homicide" rather than "accident" for deaths of Black children relative to White children. /4
“Participants read a vignette describing a not straightforward or simple case in which a 3.5-year-old child was presented to an ED with diminished vital signs and who died shortly after arrival. /5
In the vignette, the caretaker described finding the toddler unresponsive on the floor of a living room. Postmortem examination determined that the toddler had a skull fracture and subarachnoid hemorrhage of the brain. /6
By random assignment, each pathologist read one of two vi- gnettes, which were identical apart from two pieces of information: some were told that the child was African-American and that the care- taker was the mother's boyfriend /7
whereas the other pathologists were told that that child was White and that the caretaker was the child's grandmother. To be consistent with typical medical information, the race of the child was stated, but the race of the caretaker was not explicitly stated. /8
In the Black condition, pathologists were about 5 times more likely to rule the death as a "homicide" rather than an "accident" (35.4% vs. 6.2%), but in the White condition, the results were the opposite: /9
A dataset of death certificates in NV revealed that Black children, relative to White children, were more often judged as victims of homicides rather than accidents. /10
The experimental data, along with the death certificate data, taken together, show that even highly trained professional scientists can be biased in their decisions. /11

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More from @drjudymelinek

6 Feb
Marijuana and death. A thread👇🏻
As a forensic pathologist it is my job to certify death in cases of drug intoxication. I can’t think of a single case in my 20 year career where THC (the active ingredient in weed) was ever the cause of death on its own. /1
THC may be present in combination with other drugs such as synthetic cannabinoids, alcohol, or methamphetamine in mixed drug intoxication deaths. In those cases we may list THC on the death certificate (DC) with the other drugs. This is to acknowledge its presence /2
NOT to imply that it would have killed the decedent on its own. In illegal drug markets it’s may not be unusual for THC to be tainted with “spice” “K2” (synthetic drugs) or fentanyl derivatives to increase the “high.” These additives are more likely to kill the user. /3
Read 8 tweets
30 Jan
In response to @nytdavidbrooks
A thread. 👇🏻
You can’t argue studies & reports with fear. Minority communities have been disproportionately affected by their families dying. The unions are representing the teachers who are also POC, at risk & don’t want to die.
I see both sides of this issue and it’s only a problem because of a lack of a Federal response and Federal leadership. If the US had a functional @CDC last year and had set out guidelines for school reopening we wouldn’t be here.
I quit my job because the protocols I wrote weren’t being followed so I don’t blame unions one bit for advocating for the health & safety of their workers.
Read 10 tweets
7 Jul 20
So we just landed in New Zealand. Temperature checks and symptoms screening on landing. Now taken on a bus to a quarantine hotel for two weeks in Auckland. This is how you properly manage a border in the age of #COVID19 Image
We are staying at the Sudima hotel. This was breakfast the first day. Little adorable meat pies and porridge. The meat pies were good. I chomped one before thinking to take the photo. Image
This is the booklet we got when we checked in. Published by the New Zealand Government @ChiefSciAdvisor It’s 20 pages long. It covers all the questions you might have about quarantine including what might happen if you test #Covid19 positive. Image
Read 25 tweets
30 May 20
So what does "no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation" mean?… #GeorgeFloyd - a thread /1
Without seeing the actual autopsy report or autopsy photos it’s hard to tell based on that phrase alone. Generally it means that there’s no trauma to the front strap muscles of the neck, hyoid bone, thyroid or laryngeal fractures. /2
But a broad, even force on the side of the neck wouldn’t necessarily leave much of a mark on the strap muscles of the front of the neck the way a hand would in manual strangulation. /3
Read 10 tweets
6 Jan 20
Thread. Jeffrey Epstein photos are out and here’s my take:… 1
Disclaimer: I wasn’t consulted by the press & don’t have access to all the photos, just the ones in the news reports. The quality is not as good as if I had originals digital files. 2
That said, in the photos shown the ligature furrow appears horizontal and does not appear to elevate behind the ears. There is also injury to the right back base of the neck. This is concerning for a strangulation rather than a hanging. 3
Read 9 tweets
4 Aug 19
@neiltyson 1. The medical errors number is wrong. It’s based on grossly extrapolated data with no autopsy confirmation and assumes that if someone died after surgery it was due to the surgery and not to the underlying disease the surgery was for. 2. Mass shootings are homicides.
@neiltyson 3. @neiltyson do you really want to use comparative data to effectively minimize the human reaction to the horror of a mass fatality incident? All of these deaths are preventable and we should be working on all of them. #NotOneMore
@neiltyson 4. We have public health measures & evidence based legislation in place to address flu deaths, medical errors, MVAs, even suicide. Why don’t we have it in place to address gun violence? @ResearchAffirm #ThisIsOurLane
Read 4 tweets

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