I just spoke on the phone with Dr. Dwalia South, president of the Mississippi State Medical Association, the state branch of the AMA.
Coincidentally, Dr. South has been working on an editorial for the organization's newsletter raising questions about why the state medical examiner position in Mississippi has been vacant since 1995. In doing some research, she found my personal blog, contacted me, and we chatted this morning.
"I don't know why Dr. Hayne is still a member of our organization," she says. "I'm going to try to get him booted. I can't believe he is allowed to take the stand and use our organization's name to boost his credentials. That isn't right. I'm going to do what I can to change that. I'm going to do what I can make people care about this."
Dr. South has firsthand experience with Hayne and with Mississippi's broken forensics system. She was once the elected coroner for Tippah County, and one of the few county coroners who bucked Hayne's grip on the system. That might have something to do with the fact that unlike most of the state's coroners, she's an actual physician. The state requires only a high school diploma to run for coroner.
"We had all sorts of people in that office. Farmers, morticians, a really diverse group of people for that kind of office. The guy I replaced couldn't read or write. Can you believe that? An illiterate was in charge of this county's death investigations. He was letting the families of the deceased fill out the death certificates. Really unbelievable. When I heard that, I decided, well, I'm going to run. I did, and I won."
One of the reforms implemented by Dr. Lloyd White, who was a state medical examiner in Mississippi before Hayne and his allies drove him out, was that the coroners at least had to take continuing courses in death investigation. According to Dr. South, many of those classes are, perversely, taught by Dr. Hayne.
"He's actually a very good lecturer," she says. "At least when it comes to his style. Very charming. The coroners loved him. He really owned them."
But South wasn't in office long before she started to learn about Hayne's practices. "I was hearing some really horrible things about him," she says. "The more I learned, the more troubled I was. What he's doing is unethical and unprofessional. it's malpractice. If the truth was known about him, there would be an upheaval in our penitentiary system, because there are probably a lot of people he's helped put there who don't deserve to be there."
"I'm really blown out of the water by this," she says. "One of my goals when I became president was to shed some light on this. Mississippi doesn't need this. There's got to be something that we as a group of doctors can do to blow the whistle on this guy."
The Mississippi State Medical Association's next board meeting is in three weeks.
My reason feature on Dr. Hayne here.