2019 Regular Session
To: Judiciary, Division A
By: Senator(s) McMahan, Hopson, Carter
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 41-61-65, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO ALLOW COUNTY CORONERS TO CONTRACT WITH A PRIVATE PATHOLOGIST TO PERFORM AUTOPSIES ON A PILOT-PROGRAM BASIS; TO AMEND SECTION 41-61-77, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO CONFORM; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. 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 the State Medical Examiner may choose a competent pathologist who is designated by the State Medical Examiner or the Department of Public Safety as a pathologist qualified to perform postmortem examinations and autopsies to perform the autopsy or study. To be eligible to be designated under this section, a pathologist must be an M.D. or D.O. who is certified in forensic pathology by the American Board of Pathology unless a certified forensic pathologist is not available to perform a postmortem examination or autopsy within a reasonable time. 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 a designated pathologist who is qualified as required by this subsection, 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 petition and hearing shall be borne by the petitioner.
(4) As a pilot program for three (3) years, beginning July 1, 2019 until June 30, 2022, in Lee, Itawamba, Warren and Harrison counties, the county medical examiner or medical examiner investigator, with the approval of the board of supervisors, may choose a competent pathologist who is designated under Section 41-71-65 by the State Medical Examiner as a pathologist qualified to perform postmortem examinations and autopsies to perform the necessary autopsy or study under this section.
SECTION 2. Section 41-61-77, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
41-61-77. (1) The Department of Public Safety shall establish and maintain a central office for the Mississippi Forensics Laboratory and the State Medical Examiner with appropriate facilities and personnel for post-mortem 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 post-mortem 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 be an affiliate or regular faculty member of the Department of Pathology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and may serve as a member of the faculty of 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) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit a county medical examiner or county medical examiner investigator from contracting with a private pathologist to perform autopsies subject to approval by the board of supervisors in the pilot program created under Section 41-61-65(4).
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2019.