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Xavier Magazine | June 28, 2017

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Telling a Dead Man’s Tale

By France Griggs Sloat

Dead men tell no tales, so Don Douthit speaks on their behalf. Armed with two degrees from the University—a bachelor’s in mortuary science in 1986 and a master’s in criminal justice in 1989—Douthit presents himself as an expert witness in mortuary science lawsuits nationwide.

The stories are sometimes gruesome, too. Take, for instance, the two families in Hawaii who each had an elderly male family member die at the same time. Both men went to the same funeral home, one to be cremated, the other buried with a full Mass. Guess what? The toe tags got crossed and the wrong guy was cremated. Douthit was called in to point out where the funeral home could have caught its mistake: one man wore glasses; one had a tattoo; one man’s clothing didn’t fit.

Or the case where a body went missing at the medical examiner’s office for three days. By the time it was found, it was a malodorous affair. The funeral director tried to cover his mistake by spraying air freshener around the casket. No surprise – the case was settled out of court.

“My profession is a mixture of science and law,” says Douthit, who is a licensed funeral director but works at the Ohio Valley Tissue & Skin Center in Cincinnati.

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