EDITED TO ADD UPDATE: This story was written prior to George Floyd’s final autopsy report was released by the Medical Examiner and an Independent Forensics Investigation. The below explanation is helpful in understanding the findings.
Over the past few months to years I have watched the slow desecration of medicine by others. As an Emergency Physician of over 10 years, I have become used to witnessing the misleading spin of nonmedical professionals on topics in our field of expertise. Despite my desensitization, I have found that some of the false interpretations of the summary of George Floyd’s preliminary autopsy in court documents are among the worst offenders. Within the charges filed against Derek Chauvin for Floyd’s death are listed preliminary findings from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s report that highlight Floyd had a past medical history and may have been under the influence of intoxicants. However, it is important that these are court documents, not the complete medical examiners report, and any insinuation that throws doubt on the fact that Floyd died because Minneapolis police officers kneeled on his neck and thorax for 9 minutes is dangerous and simply incorrect.
First, a full and thorough pathology report can take days to weeks to be completed, and is not the end all — other investigation surrounding the events must be taken into consideration. I suspect a full and independent autopsy to follow will provide the information we all know to be true.
When read carefully, this section of the court documents do not actually support any naysayer claims. The released excerpts say preliminary findings “revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation” and then allude that Floyd’s coronary vascular disease, hypertension and “potential intoxicants” were contributors. However, the same excerpt clearly states that the “combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police” were what led to his death. At the end of the day it will be the job of a forensic pathologist to investigate and all I can do as a physician of the living is to explain why assumptions can not be made based off of this excerpt.