Featured, Off the Shelf, Poetry Thursdays
comment 1

The Autopsy Report of Mr. George Floyd

The Autopsy ReportI of Mr. George FloydII: Mechanical AsphyxiaIII,IV

I There was more than one objective report on homicide. The first headline — cardiopulmonary arrest, positive for COVID-19. Followed by public outrage: We saw without prodding or proximity, we knew without license or degree, we heard and we witnessed all that his body testified: the crush of the knee looting air from lungs, the drowning of his pulmonary parenchyma, his cries of “I can’t breathe.” The second — mechanical asphyxia. There is no justice in muddy medical terminology or listservs of forensic coroners who disagree. The third report has yet to be type-set but it will name — racism, as the cause of death.

II He was a tall man with tall dreams, out buying at the local grocery. For more information, please see this non-comprehensive list: Tony, Breonna, Ahmaud, Trayvon, Michael, Kionte … and Dante, Ezell, Michael, John, Eric, Emmett. For a medical directory, please read: of the unethical practice of an antebellum “father of modern gynecology,” of the procurement of Ms. Lacks’ cells, of the execution of the Study on Syphilis. Ibid., slavery.

III A Black man of his age, his chances of dying were already high. Experts were surprised to see he had survived COVID, as we know that takes more Black lives. If not virus or brutality, consider a health disparity: too much blood sugar, too much blood pressure, too much of another nationally notifiable, historically accepted disease. Assuredly, upon further questioning, we may comfortably suggest lifestyle, socioeconomic status, environment, or other factors as immutable, statistical context. What shall go unaddressed is covert, overt systemic oppression in which we remain comfortably complicit.

IV Pressed for time, the report shall be quick to conclude: For eight minutes and forty-six seconds, Mr. Floyd could not breathe with a knee on his neck, and thus met his untimely, unconscionable death.

Image credit: Oakland, California, June 6, 2020 (CC BY-NC 2.0) by Thomas Hawk

Amal Cheema Amal Cheema (4 Posts)

Contributing Writer

Geisel School of Medicine

Amal is a writer and medical student at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, class of 2024. She graduated from Wellesley College with a Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry and political science in 2017. Prior to medical school, she pursued a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship and a post-baccalaureate in biomedical ethics. Outside of class, you can usually find her writing, reading, baking, or adventuring in the outdoors.