STONEHAM – Rosanne and Bob Carruthers have placed photos of their son, Neil, in nearly every room of their Stoneham house. On one wall, he hikes in the woods with Bear, his big black dog. In another corner, loving and serene, he and his wife, Tina, smile on their wedding day.
In these rooms he grew up, and in these rooms he drew his final breaths. “Neil died right here,” his mother said, standing in the hallway outside the first-floor bedroom where his wife, ill and bedridden, lived for her final months.
Neil, who was 34, collapsed there on Aug. 11, 2013, as he stepped into the hall after attending to the morning medical rituals of Tina, who died of brain cancer less than two days later at the age of 29.
A year later, his parents are trying to work through their grief while still waiting for an answer as to why their only son died. Like many families in Massachusetts, Rosanne and Bob Carruthers have had to put closure on hold because of delays that have beset the state medical examiner’s office.
The Globe reported earlier this year that severe backlogs occurred when the office switched laboratories for toxicology testing in order to save about $600,000 a year. The cost to families like Neil’s can’t be quantified.
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