Sunday, April 14, 2013

Kintzle & Bride, Intervention following a sudden death - summary critique

Kintzle, S., & Bride, B. E. (2010). Intervention Following a Sudden Death: The Social Work-Medical Examiner Model. Health & Social Work, 35(3), 221-224.

Millions of people are left without services when grieving from the sudden death of a loved one. The intense emotional response to sudden loss can have effects upon generations. Medical examiners investigate the context and cause of death for people who die suddenly. The job of the medical examination team, generally, is to rule out the potential of foul play, and provide understanding and closure to families about the cause of death. While not traditionally a part of the examination team, social workers have increasingly been hired to perform specific tasks in this field. The job of the social worker’s role in medical examination settings is outlined by Kintzle & Bride (2010).

Generally, social workers simultaneously serve as a liaison and interpreter between the medical examination team and the family of the deceased, and advocate for the needs of the grieving family during the investigation process. The social worker understands the process and helps put the family at ease as much as possible. Communication at the scene of death can be difficult due to the intense emotional activation of people present. The social worker facilitates communication and builds rapport between the medical examination team. Social workers in this setting can keep pressure off of the medical examiner’s office, and are better trained to interact with grieving and traumatized people than medical examiners, investigators, and police.
Three therapeutic duties also exist. of a social worker on a medical examiner team: intervention with traumatized individuals and families at the scene of death, bereavement support, and referral assessment for a variety of agencies, including funeral services, clean-up, insurance, etc. A protocol is given for interacting with families over a period of several months in which grief counseling and referrals are the focus of most interactions.

Kintzle & Bride article provide a framework with no real data to support it. For example it would be helpful to know how many people use framework that is outlined, what competing models are in place, and why the lengths of time for follow-up phone calls or other interactions are listed. Nothing is discussed relating to critical periods for trauma recovery; it appeared that the lengths of time for follow-up and referrals were arbitrarily chosen for other reasons, or because it ‘seemed like’ the right amount of time. It would be nice to know how many social workers are on medical examination teams. Perhaps there are very few, which would explain the looseness and lack of cited research.

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