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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Let's Do the Numbers (Again)

If you view this blog in the web version, you will find a survey on the lower right side of the page, right above the picture of the starving cat. It asks,

"A body is found at the base of a cliff. No witnesses. What should a Medical Examiner conclude?" The options: Accidental, Undetermined, Homicide, Suicide or Not the ME's Call.

There's no rush to beat the buzzer or anything, just notice the results, from an admittedly small sample. Most people would call it Undetermined. A good portion say Accident. A fraction believe Homicide; a larger fraction didn't think it was the ME's call.

Nobody says Suicide. Zero percent.

I ran several similar polls on Twitter last year, using the same scenario, but not including the option about the ME's call. Suicide registered a statistical blip is all, with the vast majority of respondents divided between Accidental and Undetermined.

I can tell (call it researcher's intuition) that this makes sense to you. NSA guys can actually see you, through your camera, nodding your head in agreement as you read it... We know this.

It should make sense to you because it is the result of thousands of family tragedies that are broken down into raw data every year. So let's confirm your gut feeling with some numbers - again.

Start with 100,000 people, all kids age 14 and younger. Almost enough to fill The Big House at a University of Michigan football game. Just one of them will intentionally kill himself or herself. That's 1/1,000th of 1%.

Two out of three times, that child is a female.

In half of those suicides, drugs were either contributory or causative.

Only one in four will use suffocation/strangulation as their method of suicide - and that is nearly universally done in a clandestine manner.

Minorities or kids in poor neighborhoods are more likely. The top of the age range in this group is 14 years, and the incident rates drop significantly by the year... All of this, we know.

Charlie was a White boy, barely 12, with no drugs in his system when he died in his front yard while playing on a years-old "Tarzan"-style rope. No witnesses to the act. No suicide note. None of the well-known societal red flags.

White. Boy. 12. No drugs. Out in the open.

The chances of his death being a suicide are less than 1/4 of 1/2 of 1/3 of 1/1000th of 1 percent. It's something that simply has never happened before, not here, or anywhere else you can find.

Another, more plausible, statistic: Accidents are the leading cause of death in all children 14 and younger... This, too, we know.

But here in Kalamazoo, why, the government tends to view these things in any way that suits their purposes. No matter who it harms. Their motto here: Ready, Fire, Aim.

It is hysterically obvious by now that ME Joyce deJong got it wrong. A far better pathologist than her explained carefully to my sister the official (read: Legal) manner used to determine cause of death: Scene investigation, which they botched, toxicology results, which they didn't get back until 3 weeks later (100% clean at that) and police reports which they didn't even bother to have mailed to them until May of the following year.

When called to account, they said they based their horrifyingly irresponsible bullshit also on letters from concerned citizens - which the ME apparently did not read - and from, well, my blog.


I sure do miss Charlie. I wonder sometimes what it might have been like, to grieve normally, instead of having to do this. My dirty job.

Someday, though, I believe I will see him again, and together we will look down at this cruel little place, and we'll laugh and laugh, until our tears fall like rain. My big belly guffaw will roll down as the thunder. And Charlie's delighted cackle will crackle with the lightning... This, above all else, we know.

pH 5.17.17


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