After testifying for Chauvin defense, Maryland doctor's record in question

Dr. David Fowler said George Floyd’s cause of death was “undetermined.”
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Dr. David Fowler

After testifying on behalf of the defense in the Derek Chauvin trial, the record of a former state medical examiner may soon be under review by Maryland's top attorney. 

On the witness stand, Dr. David Fowler said he believes Floyd suffered a “sudden cardiac arrhythmia,” contradicting a number of his colleagues as well as the prosecution, which argued repeatedly that Floyd died due to a lack of oxygen, or asphyxia, caused by Chauvin’s restraint.

In contrast, Fowler — who served as Maryland's chief medical examiner for nearly 20 years — cited Floyd’s heart conditions, stress caused by the restraint, drug use and carbon monoxide from vehicle exhaust as possible contributing factors.

This led to controversy in the medical community, with a group of hundreds of doctors this week writing a letter to Maryland officials saying Fowler's testimony was "baseless, revealed obvious bias, and raised malpractice concerns."

The letter takes particular aim at the carbon monoxide theory, calling it "far outside" the standards of pathology as well as  "grounds for an immediate investigation into the practices of the physician as well as the practice of the Maryland State Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) while under his leadership."

"If forensic pathologists can offer such baseless opinions without penalty," the statement went on to say, "then the entire criminal justice system is at risk."

Now, less than a day after the letter was issued, the office of Maryland's attorney general says there "should be a review of 'in custody' death reports" produced by the state's OCME during Fowler's tenure, per the Baltimore Sun. 

In a comment to the paper, Fowler "defended his work" and noted that "he was not solely responsible for (all) autopsy conclusions" during his time leading the OCME.

Nonetheless, the office of Attorney General Brian Frosh said Friday that it has "offered to coordinate" any such review of Fowler's record, per CBS 13 in Baltimore. 

This is not the first time the doctor's record has been called into question. 

Fowler is named in a wrongful death lawsuit from the family of Anton Black, an African-American teen who died in police custody in 2018 after being held down by officers for six minutes in Greensboro, Maryland.

According to Reuters, the suit accuses Fowler of helping cover up Black's cause of death, which Fowler's office ruled was "natural causes" due to sudden cardiac arrest. 

As the news service notes, Black's family says the actual cause of death was "lack of oxygen resulting from police restraint."

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