The saga of private coroner Shawn Parcells, who faces criminal and civil charges in Kansas, has a grisly aura. He’s accused of failing to perform autopsies he was paid for, as well as felony counts of theft and misdemeanor counts of desecration.
Last week, a judge appointed a receiver to oversee Parcells’ Topeka location, and state Attorney General Derek Schmidt is asking Kansans who think their loved ones’ remains or biological samples might be there to contact his consumer protection division.
We encourage them to do so, and we support Schmidt’s efforts to seek justice in this case.
The Kansas City Star noted last week that “Coroner-ordered autopsies in Kansas are to be performed by qualified pathologists. The lawsuit indicated Parcells, who has no degree or license in the healing arts, allegedly conducted many of the autopsies without a pathologist and billed the county for at least 14 autopsies that weren’t performed.”
According to The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Tim Hrenchir, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Lee Norman has been named the receiver, and his department will take charge of the samples at Parcells’ Topeka location.
Those are worthwhile steps, but big questions remain. How was Parcells able to operate for years in Kansas? Were earlier alarms raised and ignored? If so, who might be responsible?
The same Star story notes that questions about Parcells were raised in Missouri back in 2013. That’s nearly seven years ago now. They were wondering “whether Parcells performed autopsies without a medical license, inflated his qualifications and listed doctors on reports who weren’t present for autopsies.”
If someone knew or suspected something before now, they should answer to the families who sent the bodies of their loved ones to Parcells.
We have beaten this drum before, but the mere fact that someone works in the private sector does not make them virtuous. A public employee has to answer to a bureaucracy and operate with details of his or her job open for inspection by all. After all, public employees are ultimately answerable to that same public.
Parcells, as a private operator, seems to have been able to skirt questions for years. The public sector — in the persons of Schmidt and Norman — are now working to answer those questions and seek justice for families. Their actions now are laudable, but it would have been better never to have gotten to this point.