This study of race and ethnicity descriptions in medical examiner records in New Mexico found that investigators frequently describe race and ethnicity incorrectly for Hispanic/Latino decedents, especially regarding homicide manner of death and injury and substance abuse causes of death.
Researchers use public records from deceased individuals to identify trends in manners and causes of death. Results of this study demonstrate that investigators frequently describe race and ethnicity incorrectly for Hispanic/Latino decedents, especially regarding homicide manner of death and injury and substance abuse causes of death. Hispanic/Latino decedents were underreported by death investigators. Decedents are overreported as White in cases of homicide. Cause of death by substance abuse or injury were related to misidentification. There is systematic bias in investigators' assignment of race and ethnicity. Inaccuracies may cause biased misperceptions of violence within specific communities and affect investigative processes. Errors in the description of race and ethnicity can affect the inferences researchers draw, adversely impacting public health policies designed to eliminate health inequity. Using the New Mexico Decedent Image Database, the authors examine: 1) the accuracy of death investigator descriptions of race and ethnicity by comparing their reports to those from next of kin (NOK), 2) the impact of decedent age and sex on disagreement between death investigators and NOK, and 3) the relationship between investigators’ descriptions of decedent race and ethnicity and cause and manner of death from forensic pathologists (n = 1813). (Published Abstract Provided)
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