MISSISSIPPI LEGISLATURE

2006 Regular Session

To: Public Health and Human Services

By: Representative Holland

House Bill 909

AN ACT TO BRING FORWARD SECTIONS 41-61-51 THROUGH 41-61-79, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, WHICH ARE THE MISSISSIPPI MEDICAL EXAMINER ACT, AND SECTIONS 41-37-1 THROUGH 41-37-25, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, WHICH RELATE TO THE PERFORMING OF AUTOPSIES, FOR THE PURPOSE OF AMENDMENT RELATING TO THE SUDDEN DEATH OF INFANTS AND CHILDREN; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:

SECTION 1. Section 41-61-51, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-61-51. Sections 41-61-51 through 41-61-79 shall be known and cited as "Mississippi Medical Examiner Act of 1986."

SECTION 2. Section 41-61-53, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-61-53. For the purposes of Sections 41-61-51 through 41-61-79, the following definitions shall apply:

(a) "Certification of death" means signing the death certificate.

(b) "Coroner" means the elected county official provided for in Sections 19-21-101 through 19-21-107.

(c) "County medical examiner investigator" means a nonphysician trained and appointed to investigate and certify deaths affecting the public interest.

(d) "County medical examiner" means a licensed physician appointed to investigate and certify deaths affecting the public interest.

(e) "Death affecting the public interest" means any death of a human being where the circumstances are sudden, unexpected, violent, suspicious or unattended.

(f) "Medical examiner" means the State Medical Examiner, county medical examiners and county medical examiner investigators collectively, unless otherwise specified.

(g) "Pronouncement of death" means the statement of opinion that life has ceased for an individual.

(h) "State medical examiner" means the board certified forensic pathologist/physician appointed by the Commissioner of Public Safety to investigate and certify deaths which affect the public interest.

SECTION 3. Section 41-61-55, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-61-55. There is hereby created the position of State Medical Examiner, to be established as herein provided under the appointment by and supervision of the Commissioner of Public Safety.

Each applicant for the position of State Medical Examiner shall, as a minimum, be a physician who is eligible for a license to practice medicine in Mississippi and be certified in forensic pathology by the American Board of Pathology.

The State Medical Examiner may be removed by the commissioner only for inefficiency or other good cause, after written notice and a hearing complying with due process of law.

SECTION 4. Section 41-61-57, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-61-57. (1) There are hereby created the positions of county medical examiners and county medical examiner investigators, to be established as herein provided through successful completion of the death investigation training school provided for in subsection (5) of this section. Each county medical examiner (CME) shall be a doctor of medicine (M.D.) or osteopathic medicine (D.O.) licensed in the State of Mississippi. Each county medical examiner investigator (CMEI) shall be a nonphysician who shall, as a minimum, possess a high school graduation diploma or its equivalent. Extra consideration for the CMEI position may be given for experience and/or training in health-related fields and medicolegal death investigations.

(2) Each coroner elected in the 1987 general election and thereafter, upon successful completion of the death investigation training school provided for in subsection (5) of this section, shall be recognized as a county medical examiner or county medical examiner investigator, according to the qualifications set out in subsection (1) of this section, and shall be designated the chief for the county in which he was elected. If the elected or appointed coroner fails to successfully complete the death investigation training school, and thus is unable to take the oath of office, as provided in Section 19-21-105, there shall promptly be appointed a coroner pro tempore in the manner prescribed by Section 9-1-27, and that person shall be designated the chief county medical examiner or county medical examiner investigator until the time of the next death investigation training school, which he must successfully complete or be removed from office. Any elected coroner who has failed to successfully complete the death investigation training school may attend any subsequent death investigation training school conducted during the term for which he was elected, and upon the successful completion thereof, he shall become the chief CME or CMEI for the county in which he was elected. The coroner pro tempore then shall become a deputy CME or CMEI, provided he has successfully completed the death investigation training school. Notwithstanding anything in this section to the contrary, each coroner holding office on July 1, 1986, shall be the chief CME or CMEI for the county in which he was elected through the expiration of his term in January 1988 without having to attend the death investigation training school; however, he may voluntarily attend any such school conducted prior to that time.

(3) There shall be at least one (1) county medical examiner and/or county medical examiner investigator for each county, and one (1) county medical examiner or county medical examiner investigator shall be designated as the chief for each county, except as otherwise provided in subsection (4) of this section. Any county may have deputy county medical examiners or deputy county medical examiner investigators as deemed necessary who shall be appointed jointly by the board of supervisors and the CME or CMEI. However, when the population of a county reaches a total of twenty thousand (20,000) or greater, there shall be one or more officially appointed deputies. Deputies shall be subject to the same qualifications, training and certification requirements, and shall possess the same authority and discharge the same duties, as other county medical examiners or county medical examiner investigators, and shall receive fees and expenses as provided in Sections 41-61-69 and 41-61-75. Any CME or CMEI may be removed by the State Medical Examiner prior to the expiration of his term as CME or CMEI for inefficiency, or other good cause, after written notice and a hearing in compliance with due process law.

(4) One (1) person may serve as the chief CME or CMEI for two (2) or more adjacent counties when that person consents and the boards of supervisors of each county involved and the State Medical Examiner consent in writing. Each respective county involved shall be responsible for payment for the services given to that county by the chief CME or CMEI.

(5) Chief and deputy CME's and CMEI's shall attend the death investigation training school provided by the Mississippi Crime Laboratory and the State Medical Examiner, and shall successfully complete subsequent testing on the subject material by the State Medical Examiner at least once every four (4) years. Room, board and transportation expenses for attending the school shall be borne by the county in which the CME or CMEI is serving. In addition to the above training, the individual shall receive at least twenty-four (24) hours annually of continuing education as prescribed and certified by the State Medical Examiner. If the above requirements for training or continuing education are not met, the individual immediately shall be disqualified and removed from office as CME and/or CMEI. Reapplication for the office may be made the following year after removal.

SECTION 5. Section 41-61-59, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-61-59. (1) A person's death that 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. The appropriate medical examiner shall notify the municipal or state law enforcement agency or sheriff and take charge of the body. When the medical examiner has received notification under Section 41-39-15(6) that the deceased is medically suitable to be an organ and/or tissue donor, the medical examiner's authority over the body shall be subject to the provisions of Section 41-39-15(6). The appropriate medical examiner shall notify the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics within twenty-four (24) hours of receipt of the body in cases of death as described in subsection (2)(m) or (n) of this section.

(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 that 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.

(m) Death that is caused by drug overdose or which is believed to be caused by drug overdose.

(n) When a stillborn fetus is delivered and the cause of the demise is medically believed to be from the use by the mother of any controlled substance as defined in Section 41-29-105.

(3) The State Medical Examiner is 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 that has established a regional medical examiner district under subsection (4) of Section 41-61-77 may serve other counties that are parties to the agreement establishing the district, in accordance with the terms of the agreement, and may contract with counties that are not part of the district to provide medical examiner services for those counties. If a death affecting the public interest takes place in a county other than the one where injuries or other substantial causal factors leading to the death have occurred, jurisdiction for investigation of the death may be transferred, by mutual agreement of the respective medical examiners of the counties involved, to the county where the 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 a salary of Nine Hundred Dollars ($900.00) per month, in addition to the fees specified in Sections 41-61-69 and 41-61-75, provided that no county shall pay the chief county medical examiner or chief county medical examiner investigator less than One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) per month as a salary, in addition to other compensation provided by law. 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, in the discretion of the board of supervisors, a salary of not more than Nine Hundred Dollars ($900.00) 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 6. Section 41-61-61, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward 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.

SECTION 7. Section 41-61-63, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-61-63. (1) The State Medical Examiner shall:

(a) Provide assistance, consultation and training to county medical examiners, county medical examiner investigators and law enforcement officials.

(b) Keep complete records of all relevant information concerning deaths or crimes requiring investigation by the medical examiners.

(c) Promulgate rules and regulations regarding the manner and techniques to be employed while conducting autopsies; the nature, character and extent of investigations to be made into deaths affecting the public interest to allow a medical examiner to render a full and complete analysis and report; the format and matters to be contained in all reports rendered by the medical examiners; and all other things necessary to carry out the purposes of Sections 41-61-51 through 41-61-79. The State Medical Examiner shall make such amendments to these rules and regulations as may be necessary. All medical examiners, coroners and law enforcement officers shall be subject to such rules.

(d) Cooperate with the crime detection and medical examiner laboratories authorized by Section 45-1-17, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the Attorney General, law enforcement agencies, the courts and the State of Mississippi.

(2) In addition, the medical examiners shall:

(a) Upon receipt of notification of a death affecting the public interest, make inquiries regarding the cause and manner of death, reduce the findings to writing and promptly make a full report to the State Medical Examiner on forms prescribed for that purpose. The medical examiner shall be authorized to inspect and copy the medical reports of the decedent whose death is under investigation. However, the records copied shall be maintained as confidential so as to protect the doctor/patient privilege. The medical examiners shall be authorized to request the issuance of subpoenas, through the proper court, for the attendance of persons and for the production of documents as may be required by their investigation.

(b) Complete the medical examiner's portion of the certificate of death within seventy-two (72) hours of assuming jurisdiction over a death, and forward the certificate to the funeral director or to the family. The medical examiner's portion of the certificate of death shall include the decedent's name, the date and time of death, the cause of death and the certifier's signature. If determination of the cause and/or manner of death are pending an autopsy or toxicological or other studies, these sections on the certificate may be marked "pending," with amendment and completion to follow the completion of the postmortem studies. The State Medical Examiner shall be authorized to amend a death certificate; however, the State Medical Examiner is not authorized to change or amend any death certificate after he has resigned or been removed from his office as the State Medical Examiner. Where an attending physician refuses to sign a certificate of death, or in case of any death, the State Medical Examiner or properly qualified designee may sign the death certificate.

(c) Cooperate with other agencies as provided for the State Medical Examiner in subsection (1)(d) of this section.

(d) In all investigations of deaths affecting the public interest where an autopsy will not be performed, obtain or attempt to obtain postmortem blood, urine and/or vitreous fluids. Medical examiners may also obtain rectal temperature measurements, known hair samples, radiographs, gunshot residue/wiping studies, fingerprints, palm prints and other noninvasive studies as the case warrants and/or as directed by the State Medical Examiner. Decisions may be made in consultation with investigating law enforcement officials and/or the State Medical Examiner. The cost of all studies not performed by the Mississippi Crime Laboratory shall be borne by the county. County medical examiner investigators shall be authorized to obtain these postmortem specimens themselves following successful completion of the death investigation training school.

(e) In all investigations of deaths occurring in the manner specified in subsection (2)(j) of Section 41-61-59, a death investigation shall be performed by the medical examiners in accordance with the child death investigation protocol established by the State Medical Examiner. The results of the death investigation shall be reported to the State Medical Examiner on forms prescribed for that purpose by the State Medical Examiner and to appropriate authorities, including police and child protective services, within three (3) days of the conclusion of the death investigation.

(3) The medical examiner shall not use his position or authority to favor any particular funeral home or funeral homes.

SECTION 8. Section 41-61-65, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward 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. When the medical examiner has received notification under Section 41-39-15(6) that the deceased is medically suitable to be an organ and/or tissue donor, the State Medical Examiner or designated pathologist may retain any biopsy or medically approved sample of the organ and/or tissue in accordance with the provisions of Section 41-39-15(6). 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. 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 State Department of Health, 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. In all those proceedings, the State Medical Examiner and the county medical examiner or county medical examiner investigator who certified the information shall be made defendants. All costs of the petitioning and hearing shall be borne by the petitioner.

SECTION 9. Section 41-61-67, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward 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. 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 10. Section 41-61-69, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-61-69. (1) No person knowing or having reason to know that a death may be under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner shall embalm, bury or cremate the body without the permission of the medical examiner. Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be 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.

(2) A dead body shall not be cremated or buried at sea unless a medical examiner certifies that he has been informed of or inquired into the cause and the manner of death and has the opinion that no further examination is necessary. This subsection shall not apply to deaths occurring less than twenty-four (24) hours after birth or to death of patient resulting only from natural disease and occurring in a licensed hospital unless the death falls within the jurisdiction of the medical examiner. The State Medical Examiner shall be authorized to adopt rules creating additional exceptions to this subsection. For making this certification, the medical examiner or his deputy shall be entitled to charge a fee of Twenty-five Dollars ($25.00), to be paid by the applicant, unless such medical examiner or his deputy has filed a written report of such death as provided in Section 41-61-73, Mississippi Code of 1972, and received a fee therefor paid by the county.

SECTION 11. Section 41-61-75, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-61-75. (1) For each investigation with the preparation and submission of the required reports, the following fees shall be billed to and paid by the county for which the service is provided:

(a) A medical examiner or his deputy shall receive Eighty-five Dollars ($85.00) for each completed report of investigation of death, plus the examiner's actual expenses.

(b) The pathologist performing autopsies as provided in Section 41-61-65 shall receive Five Hundred Fifty Dollars ($550.00) per completed autopsy, plus mileage expenses to and from the site of the autopsy.

(2) Any medical examiner, physician or pathologist who is subpoenaed for appearance and testimony before a grand jury, courtroom trial or deposition shall be entitled to an expert witness hourly fee to be set by the court and mileage expenses to and from the site of the testimony, and such amount shall be paid by the jurisdiction or party issuing the subpoena.

SECTION 12. Section 41-61-77, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-61-77. (1) The Department of Public Safety shall establish and maintain a central office for the Mississippi Crime Laboratory and the State Medical Examiner with appropriate facilities and personnel for postmortem medicolegal examinations. District offices, with appropriate facilities and personnel, may also be established and maintained if considered necessary by the department for the proper management of postmortem examinations.

The facilities of the central and district offices and their staff services may be available to the medical examiners and designated pathologists in their investigations.

(2) In order to provide proper facilities for investigating deaths as authorized in Sections 41-61-51 through 41-61-79, the State Medical Examiner may arrange for the use of existing public or private laboratory facilities. The State Medical Examiner may contract with qualified persons to perform or to provide support services for autopsies, studies and investigations not inconsistent with other applicable laws. Such laboratory facilities may be located at the University of Mississippi Medical Center or any other suitable location. The State Medical Examiner may also serve as a member of the faculty at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and other institutions of higher learning. He shall be authorized to employ, with the approval of the Commissioner of Public Safety, such additional scientific, technical, administrative and clerical assistants as are necessary for performance of his duties. Such employees in the office of the State Medical Examiner shall be subject to the rules, regulations and policies of the state personnel system in their employment.

(3) The State Medical Examiner shall be authorized to appoint and/or employ qualified pathologists as additional associate and assistant state medical examiners as are necessary to carry out the duties of his office. The associate and assistant state medical examiners shall be licensed to practice medicine in Mississippi and, insofar as practicable, shall be trained in the field of forensic pathology. The State Medical Examiner may delegate specific duties to competent and qualified medical examiners within the scope of the express authority granted to him by law or regulation. Employees of the office of the State Medical Examiner shall have the authority to enter any political subdivisions of this state for the purpose of carrying out medical investigations.

(4) The board of supervisors of any two (2) or more adjacent counties may enter into written agreements with one another, in accordance with Section 17-13-1 et seq., to establish regional medical examiner districts for the purposes of providing and coordinating medical examiner services on a regional basis, establishing central forensic facilities for the counties involved, and employing or contracting with one or more pathologists to serve as medical examiners of the district, who will perform postmortem examinations and autopsies for the counties involved. Any powers which may be exercised under this chapter by an individual county, county medical examiner or county medical examiner investigator may be exercised jointly with any other county or with the county medical examiner or county medical examiner investigator of such other county, in accordance with the terms of the agreement between the counties involved. Any county entering into such an agreement shall be authorized to expend any funds necessary to carry out the purposes of such agreement. Any municipality located within any such district is hereby authorized and empowered to contribute funds to such district. For any such district established, the counties involved shall attempt to coordinate the operation of the district and any district facilities with the operation of any district office or offices established by the State Medical Examiner under subsection (1) of this section which include such counties. The medical examiners authorized in this subsection shall have the same authority within a medical examiner district and the counties served by such district as does the State Medical Examiner.

SECTION 13. Section 41-61-79, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-61-79. (1) The county medical examiner, county medical examiner investigator or deputies thereof may be furnished by the board of supervisors of the county:

(a) A two-way radio for countywide communication, using similar frequencies to those used by the sheriff. The responsibility for the installation, maintenance and removal of such equipment may be vested in the sheriff by the board of supervisors.

(b) A pager/beeper which can be employed countywide.

(c) A morgue or morgue facilities with proper examination equipment as directed by the State Medical Examiner. The facility may be at a hospital, funeral home or other suitable location. The county may contract with an individual or establishment to provide these facilities.

(d) A camera suitable for crime-scene or death-scene photography, plus film and processing.

(e) Body bags and cloth sheets, as needed.

(2) The county medical examiner or county medical examiner investigator may be furnished by the board of supervisors of the county with:

(a) A vehicle.

(b) Any other equipment, facilities or personnel deemed necessary by the medical examiners and by the board of supervisors of that county.

(3) The vehicle used by a medical examiner in the performance of his duties shall be considered to be an emergency vehicle and may be equipped with red emergency flashing lights and siren.

(4) The costs of any equipment or facilities purchased and the compensation of any persons employed under the authority of this section shall be paid from the general county fund or any other funds which may be made available to the board of supervisors for such purchases or employment of personnel.

SECTION 14. Section 41-37-1, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-37-1. The term "autopsy" as used in this chapter shall be construed to mean the scientific examination of the body of a deceased person, or any portion thereof, by acceptable scientific methods and the removal and retention of parts of the body to accomplish such an examination.

The term "autopsy" as used in this chapter shall not be construed to mean the scientific dissection of the whole body as practiced in medical schools in the instruction of anatomy to medical students.

SECTION 15. Section 41-37-3, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-37-3. An autopsy may be performed, as provided by this chapter, for the purpose of determining the primary and/or contributing cause of death in the interest of public health and in criminal cases.

SECTION 16. Section 41-37-5, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-37-5. Only a physician duly licensed by the Mississippi State Board of Health may perform an autopsy.

SECTION 17. Section 41-37-7, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-37-7. A duly licensed physician authorized to perform an autopsy as provided in this chapter, and who, in good faith, complies with the provisions of this chapter in the performance of an autopsy, shall not be liable for damages on account thereof.

SECTION 18. Section 41-37-9, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-37-9. A circuit judge, chancellor or county judge of the county or district where a person died or where the body of such deceased person may be or where the mortal stroke or other cause of death occurred, may, in his discretion, either in termtime or in vacation, order an autopsy to be performed upon the body of such deceased person (1) upon the petition of a county prosecuting attorney of the county where the person died, or where the body of such deceased person may be at the time or where the mortal stroke or other cause of death occurred, or (2) upon petition of the district attorney of the district where the person died, or where the body of such deceased person may be at the time or where the mortal stroke or other cause of death occurred. In the event that said petition is filed by the county prosecuting attorney or district attorney, it shall contain allegations that the petitioner believes, has reason to believe, or suspects that such deceased person came to his death by some criminal means or agency, or that the cause of justice would be promoted by having an autopsy performed upon the body of such deceased person. Said petition shall be sworn to and shall be filed in the court of the judge or chancellor who makes the order, and shall be docketed by the clerk as are other cases or suits. If the body of such deceased person has already been interred, the petition shall so state, and if an autopsy is ordered, the order shall order the disinterment of such body for such autopsy and shall order any lawful officer of the county where said body may be buried to employ suitable help to disinter said body and to keep it in a suitable place until said autopsy shall have been performed. If there has been no interment of the body of such deceased person, a copy of the order ordering an autopsy upon said deceased shall be served by the sheriff of the county, or any other person authorized to serve process, upon any person who may be found in charge of any funeral home where said body may be, and such funeral home shall hold said body for autopsy. If the body of such deceased person be not found in any funeral home the sheriff of the county where it may be found shall take said body and keep it in a suitable place until said autopsy shall have been performed. If an autopsy is ordered as provided in this section, the petitioner shall immediately secure the services of a qualified person to perform such autopsy.

SECTION 19. Section 41-37-11, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-37-11. The physician performing the autopsy in criminal investigations may obtain the services of a chemist competent to make a chemical analysis, or such services may be ordered by such judge or chancellor in termtime or in vacation. The records of such chemical analysis shall be made a part of the autopsy report.

SECTION 20. Section 41-37-13, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-37-13. In all cases where an autopsy is performed as provided in Section 41-37-9, the person making said autopsy shall file a report, in duplicate, of said autopsy with the circuit clerk of the county where the death is being investigated. Such circuit clerk shall keep and preserve said report and make it available to the district attorney, county prosecuting attorney, grand jury, coroner, and to the accused.

SECTION 21. Section 41-37-15, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-37-15. The physician performing the autopsy shall be paid a fee not exceeding the sum of Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00), which sum shall be paid out of the treasury of the county in the interest of which the autopsy was ordered, upon the allowance and warrant of the board of supervisors of such county. If the physician performing the autopsy is a qualified pathologist, such fee may be increased to Four Hundred Dollars ($400.00).

A chemist whose services are used pursuant to Section 41-37-11 may be paid a fee not to exceed Sixty Dollars ($60.00) for such chemical analysis. The fee of said chemist for such analysis shall be paid in like manner as that of the autopsy physician.

SECTION 22. Section 41-37-17, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-37-17. In cases where the disinterment of a body is ordered, the sheriff shall be reimbursed for all expenses incurred by him, which sum shall be paid out of the treasury of the county where the deceased came to his death, upon the allowance and warrant of the board of supervisors of such county. Said board of supervisors shall order payment of the same on the itemized claim of such sheriff.

SECTION 23. Section 41-37-19, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-37-19. No evidence obtained through any autopsy performed under the provisions of Section 41-37-9 shall be admitted over the objection of any party in the trial of any civil cause before a court or commission of this state.

SECTION 24. Section 41-37-21, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-37-21. The physician performing the autopsy or the chemist performing such analysis in criminal investigations may be subpoenaed as a witness in any such criminal case. If subpoenaed as a prosecution witness, he shall be paid a fee of Fifty Dollars ($50.00) per day as an expert witness for each day while in attendance at the trial, and in addition thereto he shall be paid Seven Cents (7) per mile for travel from his home to the location of the trial and return. The fees herein provided for shall be paid to prosecution witnesses as otherwise provided for by law for the payment of such witness fees. If subpoenaed as a witness by the defense, such physician or chemist may collect a fee from the defendant not to exceed that prescribed hereunder for prosecution witnesses.

SECTION 25. Section 41-37-23, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-37-23. The executive officer of the Mississippi State Board of Health or a county health officer may petition in like manner as is provided in Section 41-37-9 a circuit judge, chancellor, or county judge in any county in which a person dies or where the body of such deceased person may be, and such circuit judge, chancellor, or county judge may order an autopsy to be performed upon the body of such deceased person in the interest of public health and welfare in cases where the cause of death is not known and cannot be determined with reasonable certainty without an autopsy and when it would appear to such judge or chancellor by such petition and evidence in support thereof that death may have been due to communicable disease or contagious disease or to poison, foreign substance, radiation or for any other reason exact knowledge as to which would be of benefit to the public health and welfare. In such cases the same fees as specified in criminal investigations to the autopsy physician and chemist shall be allowed by the board of supervisors out of the general fund of the county in which such petition is filed, except that no fee shall be allowed and paid to any physician or chemist who is a regular salaried employee of the state or county. A copy of the report of the autopsy physician and chemist in such cases shall be filed with the clerk of the court in which such order was entered, with the county health officer of such county and with the executive officer of the State Board of Health.

SECTION 26. Section 41-37-25, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

41-37-25. An autopsy may be performed without court order by a qualified physician when authorized by (a) the decedent, during his lifetime, or (b) any of the following persons who shall have assumed custody of the body for the purpose of burial: a surviving spouse, either parent or any person in loco parentis, a descendant over the age of eighteen (18) years, a guardian, or the next of kin. In the absence of any of the foregoing persons any friend of the deceased who has assumed responsibility for burial, or any other person charged by law with responsibility for burial, may give such consent. If two (2) or more persons have assumed custody of the body of an adult for purposes of burial, the consent of one such person shall be deemed sufficient.

In the case of a minor, however, the consent of either parent shall be deemed sufficient, unless the other parent gives written notice to the physician who is to perform the autopsy of such parent's objection thereto prior to the commencement of the autopsy. In the event that neither parent has legal custody of the minor, the guardian shall have the right to authorize an autopsy. The fees provided in this chapter for autopsies in criminal investigations shall not be applicable to this section.

No autopsy shall be held under this section over the objection of the surviving spouse, or if there be no surviving spouse, of any surviving parent, or if there be neither a surviving spouse nor parent, then of any surviving child.

SECTION 27. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2006.