The Hennepin County Medical Examiner found a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl in George Floyd’s body during his autopsy, but was unable to identify any evidence that Floyd died of “asphyxiation” or “damage to his airways.”
Two new exhibits introduced before the Hennepin County District Court show that Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker concluded that George Floyd’s body contained a lethal dose of fentanyl, a powerful opioid, following his death in police custody on May 25. Dr. Baker formed this conclusion after he performed an autopsy on Floyd’s body.
Dr. Baker’s assessment was introduced to former officer Tou Thao’s trial in a Hennepin County District Court alongside four other exhibits, which include statements about the cause of Floyd’s death from a two-person team of independent medical examiners as well as the Armed Forces Medical Examiner.
Thao was one of the officers present as Derek Chauvin detained Floyd beneath his knee as Floyd died.
One of the documents, named “Exhibit 4,” summarizes Dr. Baker’s autopsy results and notes that Floyd’s body contained a “fatal level of fentanyl under normal circumstances.”
Exhibit 4 also reveals that “this level of fentanyl can cause pulmonary edema.”
“Pulmonary edema is a condition caused by excess fluid in the lungs,” according to Mayo Clinic. This condition causes the lungs to increase in weight and can be symptomatic of an opioid overdose, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
“Opioid overdose itself can induce pulmonary edema,” says the AAMC.
Dr. Baker’s autopsy found that “Mr. Floyd’s lungs were 2-3x their normal weight at autopsy,” consistent with pulmonary edema.
However, pulmonary edema can also be caused by an individual struggling to breathe against an obstructed airway, a condition termed “negative pressure pulmonary edema,” according to Chest, a widely regarded medical journal.
Exhibit 4 also records that Dr. Baker “said that if Mr. Floyd had been found dead in his home (or anywhere else) and there were no other contributing factors he would conclude that it was an overdose death.”
In another one of the documents, named “Exhibit 1,” Dr. Baker states this himself. If Floyd “were found dead at home alone and no other apparent causes [existed], this would be acceptable to call [his death] an OD [overdose],” he said as part of a witness statement after conducting his autopsy.
Another document, “Exhibit 3,” reports that Dr. Baker’s “autopsy revealed no physical evidence suggesting that Mr. Floyd died of asphyxiation.”
“Mr. Floyd did not exhibit signs of petechiae, damage to his airways or thyroid, brain bleeding, bone injuries, or internal bruising,” Exhibit 3 reports.
The Armed Forces Medical Examiner partially agreed with Dr. Baker, concluding that Floyd’s “death was caused by the police subdual and restraint in the setting of severe hypertensive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, and methamphetamine and fentanyl intoxication,” per “Exhibit 5.”
However, another document filed to the court, “Exhibit 2,” shows that two independent medical examiners, Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Allecia Wilson, hired by Floyd’s family attributed his death to “traumatic asphyxia due to the compression of his neck and back during restraint by police.”
Exhibit 2 also notes that Baden and Wilson were “unable to complete their final reports,” as they lacked “microscopic slides, pictures, and other evidence gathered during Dr. Baker’s initial autopsy of Mr. Floyd.”