Water related deaths and autopsies

Posted: Friday, September 21, 2007

My brother, Mark Jackson's body was found on Douglas Island on May 19. I agree with Juneau Police Sgt. Campbell that families deserve to know how and why their loved one died. I was shocked that we were not charged for the autopsy. If it's cost issue, I'm sure many families would be willing to pay for that piece of mind.

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For my family, we know how Mark passed away and that makes not knowing the why, more acceptable. Some of these people dying of exposure are veterans of this country and many are mentally ill. These are the people who have protected this country and this country's interest but they are no longer able to protect themselves.

As a nation, we are letting them down by turning a blind eye to their basic needs. We could use the data gathered from the autopsies to grade ourselves on how well we are doing in the prevention of such incidents. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, one weakness facing Alaska's Mental Health System is that determining the cause of death is not a priority. Perhaps if they were, the state would be better able to align funding, treatment and housing.

My own state of Georgia has many challenges as well. I hope to find a way to make a difference for other families so that Mark's death has more meaning than just a body found on an island. Incorporating information coming from an autopsy with mental health statistics would be beneficial to volunteers and community leaders when determining the effectiveness of programs.

In closing, I would like to thank Sgt. Campbell for his tireless efforts in locating us. He brought closure to 16 years of pain brought on by mental illness. I take comfort in knowing that Mark passed away in such a beautiful place. I hope to return again under better circumstances.

Kathy Jackson Forté

Flowery Branch, Ga.

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