May 20, 2014

When the elderly die in North Carolina, fewer questions are asked

While some states recognize the elderly as a vulnerable population whose deaths warrant special attention, North Carolina does not. Even when deaths are suspicious, sudden, violent or unattended – the types of cases medical examiners are called on to investigate – there’s typically far less scrutiny.

Medical examiners in North Carolina often fail to follow crucial investigative steps, raising questions about thousands of death rulings, a Charlotte Observer investigation has found.

The living face the consequences of those failures. Widows can be cheated out of insurance money. Families may never learn why their loved ones died. Killers can go free.

“Fatally Flawed” is a five-part series on the Observer’s investigation, which began in 2012. In today’s fourth installment, Observer reporters detail how deaths of elderly people in North Carolina often are written off as natural despite suspicious circumstances.

Read today’s story and see videos, profiles, data and other extras, plus the rest of the series.

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