25 Investigates: Documents suggest Chief Medical Examiner tried to hide info from Boston 25

BOSTON — Did the state Medical Examiner's Office attempt to withhold information from 25 Investigates?

Last month, Boston 25 News reported the delays involving autopsy reports of children. The report aired on Feb. 11 about families waiting years to learn how their children died.

A new report suggests the problems at the office run much deeper.

Internal documents obtained by Boston 25 News on Thursday suggest the Chief Medical Examiner herself tried to hide this information from this news station.

25 Investigates obtained the emails late Thursday afternoon through a public records request. A reporter spent more than two hours looking through them.

The 26 pages of internal emails reveal behind the scenes conversations at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, including exchanges about Boston 25.

On Jan. 15, 25 Investigates requested autopsy clearance rates from the Medical Examiner's office after we were contacted by a Dorchester mother who waited nearly three years for her son's autopsy report to be completed.

Six days later, the National Association of Medical Examiners, or NAME, sent Chief Medical Examiner Mindy Hull an email warning her that the office "will most likely" lose its full accreditation status because autopsies were taking too long to complete. NAME guidelines require that 90 percent of autopsies be completed within 90 days.

When Dr. Hull learned that we were going to interview the NAME president, Dr. Jonathan Arden, for our report, she emailed two investigators in the NAME office.

"Dr. Arden is about to vet the OCME accreditation status on [Boston 25]. I am really quite surprised by this," the email stated.

And Dr. Hull emailed Dr. Arden himself. She explained the delays were due to staffing issues.

"Please keep this in mind, before you have (Boston 25) report our NAME full accreditation is going to be pulled after only having it a few months," she wrote.

25 Investigates was never told the full accreditation was in jeopardy. In fact, the data we received from the Medical Examiner's office indicated the autopsy reports were being completed on time, except when it involved children.

This is part of an audio statement sent to us by a spokesperson for the Medical Examiner:

"Last year the Massachusetts Medical Examiner's Office gained full accreditation for the first time and it remains fully accredited. The Office's leadership is working closely with the accrediting body NAME to keep full accreditation after a small dip in turn around time several months ago."