A report at onlinejournal.com, stated that such a fall in a healthy person is unlikely to cause death. Berkland's determination of an accidental death, however, brought the investigation to a virtual halt:
According to the medical literature, simple falls in young, healthy people, virtually never cause- Advertisement -
death. Berkland's claim that injury opposite to the site of impact is observed only when a
person's head hits a stationary object is also contradicted by the literature. . . .
The autopsy describes the prolapsed mitral valve in great detail, claiming that the medical
literature sustains the notion that this is likely to be fatal.- Advertisement -
Dr. Berkland contends in lengthy autopsy comments that "there are only about three entities that generally cause one to drop in midsentence or in midstride . . . pulmonary embolus . . . a ruptured aneurysm . . . and most common, is a sudden cardiac arrhythmia." Yet, the medical literature suggests that neither pulmonary emboli nor aneurysms are likely to cause immediate loss of consciousness. A blow to the head is a common cause of loss of consciousness. . . .
Finally, although the report shows the subdural hematoma was severe, it was far from the site deep in the brain stem that controls heartbeat and respiration. Dr. Berkland's microscopics give no description of the brain stem and no evidence that it was damaged at all, leaving a question as to the exact cause of death. Ed Friedlander, M.D., a noted forensic pathologist has stated that "A good rule of thumb is that nothing inside the head short of a gunshot wound through the lower brain stem will kill a person in less than 60 minutes."
* The medical examiner had a troubled history--Before moving to Florida, Dr. Berkland had practiced in Kansas City, Missouri. His time there ended in controversy. Reports onlinejournal.com:
Before moving to Florida, Dr. Berkland had worked in Kansas City, MO. The August 30 edition of the Pitch Weekly, based in that city, noted in its Kansas City Strip column, "Former Jackson County coroner, Mike Berkland, provides the brains for a scandal in Florida."
The Pitch said, "Berkland claims he "sectioned' Klausutis' brain during her autopsy to determine that her head was injured by a fall, not by a blow from a weapon. But that's the same sort of claim that got Berkland run out of Kansas City in 1996, after he'd falsely reported that he'd sectioned brains later found whole by his boss--a mistake he blames on poorly proofread reports written with computer macros. No such mistake occurred with Klausutis' brain Berkland told the Pitch. "You can rest assured it was sectioned,' he says."
Jennifer Van Bergen, writing at Truthout, said Berkland's actions both in Missouri and Florida raise serious questions about the Lori Klausutis investigation:
The final touch in this case which simply makes it cry out for further investigation is the fact that Associate Medical Examiner Michael Berkland had lost his license in Missouri in 1998 for "misrepresentation or unethical conduct and knowingly making a false statement in the autopsy reports." As a result, Berkland was suspended from practice in Florida.
In 1999, Berkland's supervisor, Dr. Gary Cumberland, the Acting District Medical Examiner, who, by the way, had donated heavily--and perhaps beyond federal limits--to Joe Scarborough's election campaigns, said that he "still has full confidence in Berkland and no plans to replace him," according to Beach Browser, a local paper. It seems that Berkland was reinstated with the issuance of a "letter of guidance" by the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine.