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Health News Florida

Omissions On Death Certificates Lead To Undercounting Of Opioid Overdoses

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Jake Harper/Side Effects Public Media
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In a refrigerator in the coroner’s office in Marion County, Ind., rows of vials await testing. They contain blood, urine and vitreous, the fluid collected from inside a human eye.

In overdose cases, the fluids may contain clues for investigators.

“We send that off to a toxicology lab to be tested for what we call drugs of abuse,” said Alfie Ballew, chief deputy coroner. The results often include drugs such as cocaine, heroin, fentanyl or prescription pharmaceuticals.

After testing, coroners typically make note of the drugs involved in an overdose on the death certificate — but not always.

This story is part of a partnership that includes Side Effects Public Media, NPR and Kaiser Health News.