Heart problems killed George Floyd, pathologist testifies at Derek Chauvin trial
George Floyd was primarily killed by heart problems, as well as contributing factors like fentanyl in his system, police kneeling on top of him, inhaling car exhaust while he was on the ground, and a tumor in his hip, a forensic pathologist testified on Wednesday.
“All of those combined to cause Mr Floyd’s death,” said Dr David Fowler, an expert witness for the defence.
Mr Floyd’s heart, the pathologist argued, got significantly less oxygen and blood than healthy levels because of underlying heart disease.
“He had significant narrowing of all of his coronary arteries close to their origin, which really is consistent with all of his heart, unfortunately, being subjected to reduced supply,” Mr Fowler said.
He and a panel of forensic pathologists and other medical experts worked to reach this opinion, he said during his testimony.
Most medical experts in the trial so far have pinned the cause of death on police kneeling on top of Mr Floyd’s neck and back, with the other factors Mr Fowler mentioned playing a secondary role.
“Mr Floyd’s use of fentanyl did not cause the subdual or neck restraint,” said Dr Andrew Baker, the county medical examiner who conducted an independent autopsy of Mr Floyd. “His heart disease did not cause the subdual or the neck restraint.”
Dr Baker’s office deemed the death a homicide. Other medical experts called by the state reached similar conclusions.
“Mr Floyd died from a low level of oxygen,” Dr Martin Tobin, a lung expert, testified last week. “It’s like the left side is in a vice. It’s totally being totally pushed in, squeezed in from each side,” he added.
He added that fentanyl is a powerful opioid that causes people to slow their breathing and appear woozy just before an overdose. Mr Floyd, however, continued taking breaths at a normal rate until the moment he passed out, Mr Tobin said.
“It tells you that there isn’t fentanyl on board that is affecting his respiratory centres,” Dr Tobin said.
Others pointed to the prolonged struggle between Mr Floyd and officers as evidence that he didn’t die from a sudden cardiac problem, but rather was suffocated by police.
“Mr Floyd died of positional asphyxia, which is a fancy way of saying he died because he had no oxygen in his body,” said Dr Bill Smock, a forensic medical specialist and police training doctor called by the state. “When the body is deprived of oxygen, in this case from pressure on his chest and back, he gradually succumbed to lower and lower levels of oxygen until it was gone and he died.”
“There was absolutely no evidence at autopsy that suggest George Floyd had a heart attack,” Mr Smock added, arguing an autopsy didn’t turn up suggestions of a blood clot or hemorrhaging in his heart.
Deciding the ultimate cause is just one of the major questions before jurors in the Chauvin trial. They’ll also be called to decide whether the former officer used excessive force on Mr Floyd given the situation, and whether officers did enough to offer him medical aid once it was clear he was in medical distress.
A number of senior Minneapolis police officers as well as an outside use of force expert called by the state have concluded Mr Chauvin wasn’t following proper training and went overboard with his use of force, and that Mr Chauvin didn’t do enough to intervene as Mr Floyd began dying.
“That person is yours,” lieutenant Richard Zimmerman, a veteran Minneapolis police officer, said at the beginning of the trial. “He’s your responsibility. His safety is your responsibility. His well being is your responsibility.”
Source: The Independent