"Imagine losing a loved one and then not being able to find out the cause of death.
Unfortunately, that scenario is occurring far too often on the Navajo Nation. The reason: An outstanding tab of more than $250,000 has forced the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator to basically stop doing business with the Nation.
While the FBI picks up the bill for most homicide cases on Navajo land, the tribe must handle investigations of other death cases, such as those that are drug-related, accidental or thought to be suicides.
Navajo prosecutor Leonard Livingston spelled out the dilemma earlier this week in an Associated Press article. Before bringing a case in front of a judge and jury, he needs to know why a death happened. Since April 2006, he has been unable to provide that information because of an outstanding bill with the medical investigator that has risen as high as $300,000.
The end result for Livingston is that he has about 10 pending court cases that he continues to review to see what can be done without the official cause of death statement. It's extremely frustrating for all involved, especially family members who have the right to know how their son, daughter, father or mother actually died.
The outstanding bill could all be cleared up with the proper allocation of money from the Navajo Nation Council. Twice an appropriations measure to settle the debt has failed — once because it was tabled and another time because the bill's sponsor chose not to show up."
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Editorial: Navajo Nation must get handle on autopsy bill
(The Farmington Daily Times 5/31)
Navajo Nation - http://www.navajo.org
New Mexico halts autopsies for Navajo Nation