New Orleans is now a better place to die

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - Death stinks. But you won’t have to smell it at the $15 million New Orleans Coroner Complex and EMS Headquarters unveiled Wednesday. The new facility has a top-notch autopsy suite, as well as a separate autopsy room for working on decomposed bodies.

“That is just one feature of many features that has me walking around here with a grin from ear to ear. I am just like a proud papa,” says Coroner Jeffrey Rouse.

It's a rags to riches story that's taken more than a decade. Since Katrina, the coroner and the EMS team have been working in shabby, make-shift conditions.

In addition to the new autopsy rooms, there’s also a new toxicology lab that will eventually be staffed so that tissue and body fluids can be analyzed on site. Another huge improvement is state-of-the-art refrigeration for 112 bodies. Before, human remains were stored in three refrigerated tractor trailers. And when bodies are transferred (to and from a funeral home for example), there's now a private drive-in bay where that will happen.

Grieving families who come to identify loved ones will have more privacy -- and a new mental health suite will mean improved -- and more private -- psychiatric services. Coroner Rouse says the new digs offer more dignity for the dead and the living.