2002 Regular Session
To: Public Health and Welfare
By: Representative Banks
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTIONS 41-37-13, 41-61-65, 41-61-67, 47-5-151 AND 99-41-15, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT PARENTS OF DECEASED PERSONS ON WHICH AN AUTOPSY IS PERFORMED SHALL BE PROVIDED A COPY OF THE AUTOPSY REPORT; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 41-37-13, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
41-37-13. In all cases where an autopsy is performed as provided in Section 41-37-9, the person making the autopsy shall file a report, in duplicate, of the autopsy with the circuit clerk of the county where the death is being investigated. The circuit clerk shall keep and preserve the report and make it available to the district attorney, county prosecuting attorney, grand jury, coroner, * * * the accused, and the parents of the deceased.
SECTION 2. Section 41-61-65, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
41-61-65. (1) If, in the opinion of the medical examiner investigating the case, it is advisable and in the public interest that an autopsy or other study be made for the purpose of determining the primary and/or contributing cause of death, an autopsy or other study shall be made by the State Medical Examiner or by a competent pathologist designated by the State Medical Examiner. The State Medical Examiner or designated pathologist may retain any tissues as needed for further postmortem studies or documentation. A complete autopsy report of findings and interpretations, prepared on forms designated for this purpose, shall be submitted promptly to the State Medical Examiner. Copies of the report shall be furnished to the authorizing medical examiner, district attorney and court clerk. A copy of the report shall be furnished to one (1) adult member of the immediate family of the deceased or the legal representative or legal guardian of members of the immediate family of the deceased upon request, and if the adult member, legal guardian or legal representative is not a parent of the deceased, a copy shall be provided to the parents. In determining the need for an autopsy, the medical examiner may consider the request from the district attorney or county prosecuting attorney, law enforcement or other public officials or private persons. However, if the death occurred in the manner specified in subsection (2)(j) of Section 41-61-59, an autopsy shall be performed by the State Medical Examiner or his designated pathologist, and the report of findings shall be forwarded promptly to the State Medical Examiner, investigating medical examiner, the infant's attending physician and the local sudden infant death syndrome coordinator.
(2) Any medical examiner or duly licensed physician performing authorized investigations and/or autopsies as provided in Sections 41-61-51 through 41-61-79, who, in good faith, complies with the provisions of Sections 41-61-51 through 41-61-79, in the determination of the cause and/or manner of death for the purpose of certification of that death, shall not be liable for damages on account thereof, and shall be immune from any civil liability that might otherwise be incurred or imposed.
(3) Family members or others who disagree with the medical examiner's determination shall be able to petition and present written argument to the State Medical Examiner for further review. If the petitioner still disagrees, he may petition the circuit court which may, in its discretion, hold a formal hearing. All cost of the petitioning and hearing shall be borne by the petitioner.
SECTION 3. Section 41-61-67, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
41-61-67. (1) In any case of death where the body is or has been buried without investigation by a medical examiner as to the cause and manner of death, or where sufficient cause develops for further investigation after a body has been buried as determined by a medical examiner, the State Medical Examiner shall authorize an investigation and send a report of the investigation with recommendations to the appropriate district attorney. The district attorney may forward the report to the circuit court having jurisdiction of the matter and petition the court for disinterment. The circuit judge may order that the body be exhumed and that an autopsy be performed by the State Medical Examiner. A report of the autopsy and other pathological studies shall be delivered to the judge and to the parents of the deceased. However, in cases of suspected homicide, the State Medical Examiner shall be able to authorize disinterment for the purposes of autopsy. The cost of the exhumation, autopsy, transportation and disposition of the body shall be paid by the county for which the service is provided.
(2) Any person may petition the circuit court for an order of exhumation. Upon a showing of sufficient cause, the court may order the body exhumed. The cost incurred shall be assigned to the petitioner.
SECTION 4. Section 47-5-151, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
47-5-151. The superintendent (warden) or other person in charge of prisoners, upon the death of any prisoner under his care and control, shall at once notify the county medical examiner or county medical examiner investigator (hereinafter "medical examiner") of the county in which the prisoner died, of the death of the prisoner, and it shall be the duty of the medical examiner, when so notified of the death of the person, to obtain a court order and notify the State Medical Examiner of the death of the prisoner. * * * The State Medical Examiner shall cause an autopsy to be performed upon the body of the deceased prisoner. Furthermore, the State Medical Examiner shall investigate any case where a person is found dead on the premises of the correctional system, in accordance with Sections 41-61-51 through 41-61-79. The State Medical Examiner shall make a written report of his investigation, and shall furnish a copy of the same, including the autopsy report, to the superintendent (warden) and a copy of the same to the district attorney of the county in which the prisoner died and to the parents of the deceased. The copy so furnished to the district attorney shall be turned over by the district attorney to the grand jury, and it shall be the duty of the grand jury, if there is any suspicion of wrongdoing shown by the inquest papers, to thoroughly investigate the cause of the death.
It shall be the duty of the medical examiner of the county in which the prisoner died to arrange for the remains to be transported to the State Medical Examiner for the autopsy, and accompanying the remains shall be the court order for autopsy and any documents or records pertaining to the deceased prisoner, institutional health records or other information relating to the circumstances surrounding the prisoner's death. The State Medical Examiner shall arrange for the remains to be transported to the county in which the prisoner died following completion of the autopsy. If the remains are not claimed for burial within forty-eight (48) hours after autopsy, then the remains may be delivered to the University of Mississippi Medical Center for use in medical research or anatomical study.
The provisions * * * set forth in the first paragraph for this section shall likewise apply to any case in which any person is found dead on the premises of the Mississippi State Penitentiary, except that the autopsy to be performed on the body of such a person shall not be mandatory upon a person who is not a prisoner unless the medical examiner determines that the death resulted from circumstances raising questions as to the cause of death, in which case the medical examiner may cause an autopsy to be performed upon the body of the deceased person in the same manner as authorized to be performed upon the body of a deceased prisoner.
* * * The provisions in this section shall apply with respect to any deceased prisoner who at the time of death is being detained by duly constituted state authority such as the Columbia Training School, Oakley Training School, Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield, East Mississippi State Hospital, or any other state institution.
The provisions of this section shall not apply to a prisoner who was lawfully executed as provided in Sections 99-19-49 through 99-19-55.
Any officer or employee of the prison system or any other officer, employee or person having charge of any prisoner who * * * fails to immediately notify the medical examiner of the death of the prisoner, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not less than One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) nor more than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) and by confinement in the county jail for not more than one (1) year.
SECTION 5. Section 99-41-15, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
99-41-15. (1) Any person filing a claim under the provisions of this chapter shall be deemed to have waived any physician-patient privilege as to the communications or records relevant to an issue of the physical, mental or emotional conditions of the claimant. However, any record or report obtained by the director, the confidentiality of which is otherwise protected by any other law or regulation, shall remain confidential, subject to that law or regulation.
(2) If the mental, physical or emotional condition of a claimant is material to a claim, the director, upon good cause shown, may order the claimant to submit to a mental or physical examination and may order an autopsy of a deceased victim. The order shall specify the time, place, manner, conditions and scope of the examination or autopsy and the person by whom it is to be made. The order shall also require the person to file with the director a detailed written report of the examination or autopsy. The report shall set out the findings of the person making the report, including the results of all tests made, the diagnosis, prognosis and other conclusions and reports of earlier examinations of the same conditions.
(3) The director shall furnish a copy of the report examined. If the victim is deceased, the director shall furnish a copy of the report to the claimant on request, and if the claimant is someone other than the parents of the deceased, the parents shall be provided a copy of the report.
(4) The director may require the claimant to supply any additional medical or psychological reports available relating to the injury or death for which compensation is claimed.
SECTION 6. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2002.