Thursday, January 1, 2004

Fertility expert may run for coroner

O'dell Owens would run as Democrat

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A renowned fertility expert is preparing to run against the incumbent Hamilton County coroner next year.

Facing a Friday deadline to file for the seat, O'dell Owens said Wednesday he's likely to challenge Coroner Carl L. Parrott.

The coroner's seat is normally a low-profile elected position, but Owens' resume and a recent scandal over photos taken of bodies in the morgue could spark interest.

"People should have dignity in life and dignity in death," Owens said.

Owens, 55, of North Avondale, pioneered the use of frozen embryos and in-vitro fertilization in Cincinnati. He hasn't practiced medicine for four years, he said, instead helping develop education programs for disadvantaged youth.

Owens is also on the boards of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Fine Arts Fund and the Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

He's a former chairman of the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees.

Owens said he would run as a Democrat.

Parrott, also a 55-year-old from North Avondale, had worked in the coroner's office since 1981 before being appointed to replace retiring coroner Frank Cleveland in 1995. The Republican has won re-election twice since.

"By all accounts, he's a fine man and a fine endocrinologist," Parrott said of Owens. "My specialty is forensic pathology, which I think well qualifies me to continue to hold the office."

Ohio law requires the coroner to have two years' experience as a doctor.

"It's an office that needs some trust and integrity," Owens said. "People are concerned."

Jonathon Tobias, a pathologist in Parrott's office, was convicted of gross abuse of a corpse in 2001 for allowing a photographer to take posed pictures of bodies in the morgue. The conviction was overturned, but photographer Thomas Condon's conviction was not.

A pending lawsuit alleges that other county officials also knew what Condon was doing.

Only two Democrats currently hold countywide elected jobs: Commissioner Todd Portune and Auditor Dusty Rhodes.


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