Horry County tax payers cover $300K in autopsies of drug overdose deaths

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Horry County Coroner Robert Edge says about $300,000 of taxpayer money has gone toward autopsies this year to show whether or not people overdosed on drugs.

When the coroner is called to the scene of a death investigation, South Carolina state law says it’s up to him to decide whether or not an autopsy is needed.

Multiple times per week, the coroner says those investigations are because someone overdosed, and every time the decision is made to do an autopsy to determine the cause of death, that’s at least $2,000 of taxpayers’ money.

“Sometimes we go to these calls, and it’s very evident that it’s going to be a drug death,” says Edge.

Edge says they often find drugs beside the person and have to make the decision on whether or not they need an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

“If we have a case, for instance, that someone has injected themselves and the needle is still in their arm or falls to the floor, if there are no other circumstances involved to indicate foul play other than what’s happened, those calls we normally do just drug screens,” explains Edge.

Those drug screens cost taxpayers anywhere from $185 to $350, but 50% of all overdose cases are autopsied.

“We have to pay a doctor for his expertise. We have to pay a facility for the use of their facilities. We pay for the drug screen, and we also have to pay for the transportation to get the body from the scene to the hospital, and when you add all of that up, it comes to right around $2,000 per autopsy,” states Edge.

Edge says there are a few things that could make those autopsies cost even more.

If county officials have to take a person to Charleston for the autopsy instead of performing it in Horry County, the cost increases to $2,500 to $2,700, and that’s money Horry County taxpayers have to pay.

So far this year, Edge says taxpayers have spent about $300,000 on those autopsies, and he doesn’t see that going down anytime soon.

“I see it going up. The drug epidemic has not slowed down any. As a matter of a fact, it might have increased a little bit,” said Edge.