1997 Regular Session
To: Public Health and Welfare
By: Representative Eaton
House Bill 1226
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTIONS 41-61-59 AND 41-61-61, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REQUIRE THAT THE COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINER OR COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINER INVESTIGATOR IN THE COUNTY WHERE AN ACCIDENT OCCURRED BE NOTIFIED OF THE DEATH OF A VICTIM OF THE ACCIDENT THAT OCCURRED IN ANOTHER COUNTY; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 41-61-59, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
41-61-59. (1) (a) A person's death which affects the public interest as specified in subsection (2) of this section shall be promptly reported to the medical examiner by the physician in attendance, any hospital employee, any law enforcement officer having knowledge of the death, the embalmer or other funeral home employee, any emergency medical technician, any relative or any other person present.
(b) If an accidental death resulting from an automobile, boating or hunting accident occurs in a county other than the one where injuries or other substantial causal factors leading to the accidental death have occurred, the county medical examiner or county medical examiner investigator in the county in which the accident occurred shall be notified by the physician in attendance, any hospital employee, any law enforcement officer having knowledge of the death, the embalmer or other funeral home employee, any emergency medical technician, any relative or any other person present. The appropriate medical examiner shall notify the municipal or state law enforcement agency or sheriff and take charge of the body.
(2) A death affecting the public interest includes, but is not limited to, any of the following:
(a) Violent death, including homicidal, suicidal or accidental death.
(b) Death caused by thermal, chemical, electrical or radiation injury.
(c) Death caused by criminal abortion, including self-induced abortion, or abortion related to or by sexual abuse.
(d) Death related to disease thought to be virulent or contagious which may constitute a public hazard.
(e) Death that has occurred unexpectedly or from an unexplained cause.
(f) Death of a person confined in a prison, jail or correctional institution.
(g) Death of a person where a physician was not in attendance within thirty-six (36) hours preceding death, or in prediagnosed terminal or bedfast cases, within thirty (30) days preceding death.
(h) Death of a person where the body is not claimed by a relative or a friend.
(i) Death of a person where the identity of the deceased is unknown.
(j) Death of a child under the age of two (2) years where death results from an unknown cause or where the circumstances surrounding the death indicate that sudden infant death syndrome may be the cause of death.
(k) Where a body is brought into this state for disposal and there is reason to believe either that the death was not investigated properly or that there is not an adequate certificate of death.
(l) Where a person is presented to a hospital emergency room unconscious and/or unresponsive, with cardiopulmonary resuscitative measures being performed, and dies within twenty-four (24) hours of admission without regaining consciousness or responsiveness, unless a physician was in attendance within thirty-six (36) hours preceding presentation to the hospital, or in cases in which the decedent had a prediagnosed terminal or bedfast condition, unless a physician was in attendance within thirty (30) days preceding presentation to the hospital.
(3) The State Medical Examiner is hereby empowered to investigate deaths, under the authority hereinafter conferred, in any and all political subdivisions of the state. The county medical examiners and county medical examiner investigators, while appointed for a specific county, may serve other counties on a regular basis with written authorization by the State Medical Examiner, or may serve other counties on an as-needed basis upon the request of the ranking officer of the investigating law enforcement agency. The county medical examiner or county medical examiner investigator of any county which has established a regional medical examiner district under subsection (4) of Section 41-61-77 may serve other counties which are parties to the agreement establishing the district, in accordance with the terms of the agreement, and may contract with counties which are not part of the district to provide medical examiner services for such counties. If a death affecting the public interest as defined in subsection (2) of this section takes place in a county other than the one where injuries or other substantial causal factors leading to the death have occurred, the jurisdiction for investigation of the death shall belong to the medical examiner of that county, unless transferred by mutual agreement to the medical examiner of the county in which death was pronounced by the medical examiner of the county where such injuries or other substantial causal factors occurred, and the costs of autopsy or other studies necessary to the further investigation of the death shall be borne by the county assuming jurisdiction.
(4) The chief county medical examiner or chief county medical examiner investigator may receive from the county in which he serves, and in any county having one or more deputy medical examiners or deputy medical examiner investigators each deputy may receive from the county in which he serves, a salary, in the discretion of the board of supervisors, of not more than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) per month, in addition to the fees specified in Sections 41-61-69 and 41-61-75. For this salary the chief shall assure twenty-four-hour daily and readily available death investigators for the county, and shall maintain copies of all medical examiner death investigations for the county for at least the previous five (5) years. He shall coordinate his office and duties and cooperate with the State Medical Examiner, and the State Medical Examiner shall cooperate with him.
(5) A body composed of the State Medical Examiner, whether appointed on a permanent or interim basis, the Director of the State Board of Health or his designee, the Attorney General or his designee, the President of the Mississippi Coroners' Association (or successor organization) or his designee, and a certified pathologist appointed by the Mississippi State Medical Association shall adopt, promulgate, amend and repeal rules and regulations as may be deemed necessary by them from time to time for the proper enforcement, interpretation and administration of Sections 41-61-51 through 41-61-79, in accordance with the provisions of the Mississippi Administrative Procedures Law, being Section 25-43-1 et seq.
SECTION 2. Section 41-61-61, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
41-61-61. (1) Upon the death of any person where that death affects the public interest, the medical examiner of the county in which the body of the deceased is found or, if death occurs in a moving conveyance, where the conveyance stops and death is pronounced, shall be notified promptly by any person having knowledge or suspicion of such a death, as provided in subsection (1) of Section 41-61-59. No person shall disturb the body at the scene of such a death until authorized by the medical examiner, unless the medical examiner is unavailable and it is determined by an appropriate law enforcement officer that the presence of the body at the scene would risk the integrity of the body or provide a hazard to the safety of others. For the limited purposes of this section, expression of an opinion that death has occurred may be made by a nurse, an emergency medical technician, or any other competent person, in the absence of a physician.
(2) The discovery of anatomical material suspected of being part of the human body shall be promptly reported to the medical examiner of the county in which the material is found, or to the State Medical Examiner.
(3) A person who willfully moves, distributes or conceals a body or body part in violation of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor, and may be punished by a fine of not more than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), or by imprisonment for not more than six (6) months in the county jail, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
(4) Upon oral or written authorization of the medical examiner, if an autopsy is to be performed, the body shall be transported directly to an autopsy facility in a suitable secure conveyance, and the expenses of transportation shall be paid by the county for which the service is provided. The county may contract with individuals or make available a vehicle to the medical examiner or law enforcement personnel for transportation of bodies.
(5) If an accidental death resulting from an automobile, boating or hunting accident occurs in a county other than the one where injuries or other substantial causal factors leading to the accidental death have occurred, the county medical examiner or county medical examiner investigator in the county in which the accident occurred shall be notified by the physician in attendance, any hospital employee, any law enforcement officer having knowledge of the death, the embalmer or other funeral home employee, any emergency medical technician, any relative or any other person present.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 1997.