The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia shocked the nation, especially when hearing the distinguished Justice appeared to be in good spirits, “entertaining,” and active the night before. What is even more shocking to some is the post death procedures. It has led to many speculating foul play was involved despite what those at the scene claim. A primary area of concern centered on reports that Justice of the Peace Cinderela Guevara never examined Scalia’s body, but pronounced Scalia dead over the phone. As a friend likes to say, “What’s wrong with this picture?”
From a nursing perspective, there is quite a bit wrong with this picture. Let’s start from the beginning. In looking at the circumstances surrounding the finding of Justice Scalia dead, there will be a look at Texas Statutes and many rhetorical questions will be posed because it is being evaluated through a nurse’s eye based on medical perspective.
On Friday evening, Justice Scalia spent the evening with a private group. No one noticed any health related issues compromising Justice Scalia. The next day, John Poindexter found Justice Scalia in his bed, a pillow over his head without any disturbance of the bed sheets or pajamas. Poindexter used the description “looked like he had not quite awakened from a nap.” Poindexter determined resuscitation would be futile since Justice Scalia was cold and had no pulse.
Where did John Poindexter receive his medical degree to determine whether or not resuscitation efforts would be futile? Poindexter did not describe Scalia as pale with blue discoloration (cyanosis) of the lips, eye orbits or fingernails. Neither did Poindexter take Justice Scalia’s temperature via the rectum or liver (common in forensic investigations). A person’s skin can be cold yet still be in a state to revive using resuscitation efforts. Did Scalia have a blocked airway from an object lodged in the throat? No one knew how long Scalia had been dead. The rule of thumb or what any reasonably prudent individual would do is call emergency services, begin resuscitation efforts and continue until arrival of EMS to assume the duty. Considering the remoteness of the resort, Poindexter should know the proper procedure from a first responder standpoint and first aid perspective.
How was the pillow positioned over Scalia’s head? No one has described this very important detail. Neither has anyone indicated the position in which they found Scalia’s body. If Scalia was lying on his side with the pillow under his head but folded over his ear or another pillow over the ear, it would possibly indicate drowning out noise or getting in a comfortable position. However, if Scalia was lying on his back with a pillow over his head and one under his head, it could suggest foul play or that Scalia was shielding his face and eyes from some outside interference.
Finding Scalia in a pristine bed and unwrinkled pajamas is akin to the “magic bullet” theory on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, as well as hint to the pristine bullet found on the gurney with JFK. Take the test. Put on your pajamas then crawl into bed. Now, make sure your pajamas aren’t wrinkled. Smooth out the areas you “damaged” as you position yourself in a lying position. Regardless of how much you try, evidence of your efforts remain. It is almost as if Scalia were lifted by levitation and placed on the bed after dying.
It’s no wonder many people are asking questions. It is these unusual circumstances and actions by the individuals involved that create suspicion.
It has been reported the Sheriff called a judge to inform the judge of Scalia’s death in order that a determination on autopsy be made.
The question is, “Who determined that Justice Scalia was dead?”
Under Texas State Statute, Health and Safety Code, Title 8: Death and Disposition of the Body; Subsection A: Death; Chapter 671, Determination of Death and Autopsy Reports, “A person is dead when, according to ordinary standards of medical practice, there is irreversible cessation of a person’s spontaneous respiratory and circulatory function.” This chapter acknowledges an unspoken fact that physicians have authority to declare someone as deceased in Section 671.001 (b). Additionally, Section 671.001 (d) declares a registered nurse or physician assistant may determine and pronounce death in situations other than those described in subsection (b).