Thomas has answered questions about a component of Baker’s autopsy which, until a little while ago, seemed potentially problematic for prosecutors: his mention of Floyd’s heart problems and drug use as “contributing conditions” in the report.
Remember, prosecutors contend that Floyd died from asphyxia, not these conditions; the defense has seized upon his health issues and the presence of fentanyl and methamphetamine in his blood. So, these “conditions” have loomed large in the cause-of-death discussion.
Through questioning, prosecutors have tried to show that “contributing conditions” play more into public health data than cause-of-death assessment. “What does it mean, other contributing conditions?” the prosecution asks of this phrase on death certificates.
“So, the way forensic pathologists and medical examiners usually use this, is people often think the death certificate is for that person, that specific person who died and their family. And that’s true, it does serve a very useful purpose,” Thomas says.
“But, forensic pathologists are also using death certificates for public health data purposes, and so in any given case, we aren’t just thinking about this particular person and their cause-and-manner of death. We’re also thinking: the state and the federal government collect data .”
As an example: health authorities might want to know if an 85-year-old woman who died of natural causes had recently suffered a fall.
“That’s how I would view this,” she explains.
“So other contributing conditions are conditions that may have contributed, but were not the exact cause?” the prosecution asks. She answers in the affirmative.
When asked if she considered them in determining Floyd’s cause of death, she insists: “again, it comes down to the history of the terminal events.” That is, the circumstances leading up to Floyd’s death which, in his case, was police restraint.
The description of Floyd’s death in documentation, she says, does “not fit” deaths caused by heart problems or drug overdose.