The recent retirement of the only forensic pathologist in the Marianas, Dr. Aurelio Espinola, does affect the CNMI since it relied on his services for forensic autopsies, but his absence has, for the moment, spared the Department of Public Safety from being put in a tight spot.
In a brief interview with DPS spokesperson Adrian Pangelinan, he said that the department has always been affected by not having a forensic pathologist who is actually based in the CNMI, even more so now that there is no one based in the Marianas.
Fortunately, Pangelinan added, recent cases on the islands have not needed the attention of a forensic pathologist.
“But we are grateful that the Attorney General’s Office is able to help DPS find a doctor from the Commonwealth Health Center to make preliminary assessments for any death investigations. However, this is only preliminary as the doctor(s) are not forensic pathologists,” he said.
According to a source, preliminary investigations are being spearheaded by Dr. Philip Dauterman, who is a pathologist based on Saipan.
Dauterman also travels to Guam on occasion to assist with death investigations there when needed.
Currently, the search for a forensic pathologist, a person who specializes in medical examination of a corpse and determining its cause of death, continues for the Marianas because the closest forensic pathologist is based in Hawaii.
Espinola has been Guam’s chief medical examiner for 23 years. He retired on Jan. 31, 2019, at the age of 77.
In his years as chief medical examiner, Espinola has also traveled frequently to the CNMI to perform autopsies when needed.
According to an online source, Espinola holds a medical degree and a law degree. He was also board certified in obstetrics-gynecology, anesthesiology, and forensic pathology.
Espinola also served as deputy medical examiner for Harris County, Texas, and served as a medical examiner in Guam for two years before he became the chief medical examiner.