MIT, Harvard suffer third student death in two months as medical examiner slows (update)

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Eliana Hechter

Eliana Hechter

MIT announced the death of graduate student Eliana Hechter on Friday night. Hechter was a first-year student in the joint Harvard-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Health Sciences program pursuing an M.D. degree.

Hechter, a former Rhodes Scholar, was the daughter of Debra Friedman and Michael Hechter. Friedman was chancellor of the University of Washington Tacoma until her death this January from complications associated with lung cancer at the age of 58.

Michael Hechter is a professor of Global Studies at Arizona State University.

MIT’s announcement did not specify the location or nature of Eliana Hechter’s death, and Cambridge police cited the school’s press release in response to an inquiry. MIT was notified of her death by her family Friday morning, it said, and its announcement was released shortly before 10 p.m. Friday.

Eliana Hechter is the second student death at the institute this year; it follows the death of graduate student Hadi Kasab on March 6. Kasab’s autopsy is ongoing, and the medical examiner has indicated test results are likely to take several additional weeks to come back. According to the medical examiner’s annual reports, the median turnaround time for an autopsy as of December was 119 days, up from 21 a year earlier.

Harvard’s Andrew Sun died April 6 after jumping off a building in downtown Boston.

Update on May 23, 2014: The Massachusetts State Police today released a cause of death for Hechter’s death April 15. The death was labeled a “suicide by hanging” according to a May 15 report.

Hechter’s death took place in a single-family home in Newton, and was estimated to have occurred at 5 p.m., according to the police. She was pronounced dead shortly before 7 p.m. by Newton EMS.

The Massachusetts medical examiner continues to list Hechter’s death as “pending,” and reports a 120-day lab backlog for toxicology tests as of last month.

State and local police referred all queries to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, which declined to comment, saying the case was “not a criminal matter.”

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