Longform

A LIFE AMONG THE DEAD

Page 3 of 3

As of this writing, Karnitschnig is appealing a 1990 lawsuit that awarded $950,000 in the case of a skeleton that Karnitschnig initially misidentified as to gender and race and that was mistakenly cremated years before the victim was identified. He is outraged by the accusation of wrongdoing, even though the financial burden is the county's, not his. Regardless of the verdict, he does not think he was wrong.

UP IN PRESCOTT, Karnitschnig is clearly relieved to be away from the fight. He admits he is leaving while he is still completely in control, afraid that as he gets older he might not realize that his faculties are weakening, his judgments clouding. He has boundless energy to hike along ridge lines and point out landmarks, but he could no longer muster the strength to face a day of memos explaining that the reason he requested a bookshelf was to have something to put books on. He can't understand why he should be expected to forsake the autopsy suite for a manager's desk when that was the life's work he chose. Besides, there was always more work than there were assistants to delegate it to. Even with his staff before retirement, Karnitschnig complained of having to cut corners, of doing only a cursory examination of an HIV-positive suicide, for example, because a full autopsy would have required that the entire facility be disinfected afterward-while there were ten more bodies waiting. Over and over, he comes back to the bureaucratic octopus," sitting through five-hour meetings when five bodies are in the refrigerator and someone is talking about do-right management" or something else that pales in comparison to the stuff of Karnitschnig's day, the convenience-store clerk with a bullet in the brain, the seven-month-old baby girl beaten to death by her mother's boyfriend, the ugliest realities.

Portia Erickson has both sparred with Dr. K and socialized with him, but she has never seen what happens in the Medical Examiner's Office. On their first meeting, she asked Karnitschnig if pathologists needed to be doctors. A few weeks later, he realized that she would be writing his performance evaluation and basing it largely on the flow of paper that came out of his office.

Once he sat through two hours of a meeting in which it was debated whether a document should read to foster a better work environment" or in order to foster a better work environment." How utterly ironic. What will happen now that he's gone, that his assistants have quit, leaving one doctor to perform work that was too much for four doctors? Where will the county find replacements?

On April 14, Karnitschnig composed his last management bullet."
Today we had 18 cases including 4 homicides," he wrote. After strategically visioning the situation individually and collectively, we conceptualized a methodology that was then to be operationalized in order to foster expeditious disposition of the 18 bodies.

The above paragraph was made possible through attendance of `Language Butchery 101,' given intramurally by Maricopa County.

To conclude, Hasta La Vista, Baby!!"
part 2 of 2

THE MYSTERY OF NOVELISTS... v5-27-92

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Michael Kiefer