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AB-2457 Autopsy: electronic image systems.(2015-2016)

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Assembly Bill No. 2457
CHAPTER 136

An act to amend Section 27521 of the Government Code, relating to autopsy.

[ Approved by Governor  August 17, 2016. Filed with Secretary of State  August 17, 2016. ]

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 2457, Bloom. Autopsy: electronic image systems.
Existing law makes it the duty of a coroner to inquire into and determine the circumstances, manner, and cause of deaths under prescribed conditions, including deaths under such circumstances as to afford a reasonable ground to suspect that the death was caused by the criminal act of another. Existing law provides for the execution of a certificate of religious belief stating that postmortem anatomical dissection or specified procedures would violate the religious convictions of the person, and, except as specified, prohibits a coroner from performing the procedure. Existing law requires a postmortem examination or autopsy to include certain procedures, including, among others, taking available fingerprints and palm prints and a dental examination including dental charts and dental X-rays, as specified. Existing law authorizes the postmortem examination or autopsy of the unidentified body or remains to include full body X-rays.
This bill, except as specified, would authorize a coroner, medical examiner, or other agency required to perform an autopsy in a death under those prescribed conditions to use an electronic image system, including, but not limited to, an X-ray computed tomography scanning system, to fulfill specified postmortem examination or autopsy requirements. The bill would prohibit a coroner, medical examiner, or other agency performing an autopsy in a death under those prescribed conditions from using an electronic image system to conduct the autopsy in any investigation where the circumstances surrounding the death afford a reasonable basis to suspect that the death was caused by or related to the criminal act of another and it is necessary to collect evidence for presentation in a court of law. The bill would require a dissection autopsy to be performed to determine the cause and manner of death if the results of an autopsy performed using electronic imaging provides the basis to suspect that the death was caused by or related to the criminal act of another and it is necessary to collect evidence for presentation in a court of law. The bill would allow an autopsy to be conducted using an X-ray computed tomography scanning system without regard to the existence of a properly-executed certificate of religious belief.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: NO   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 27521 of the Government Code is amended to read:

27521.
 (a) A postmortem examination or autopsy conducted at the discretion of a coroner, medical examiner, or other agency upon an unidentified body or human remains is subject to this section.
(b) A postmortem examination or autopsy shall include, but shall not be limited to, the following procedures:
(1) Taking of all available fingerprints and palm prints.
(2) A dental examination consisting of dental charts and dental X-rays of the deceased person’s teeth, which may be conducted on the body or human remains by a qualified dentist as determined by the coroner.
(3) The collection of tissue, including a hair sample, or body fluid samples for future DNA testing, if necessary.
(4) Frontal and lateral facial photographs with the scale indicated.
(5) Notation and photographs, with a scale, of significant scars, marks, tattoos, clothing items, or other personal effects found with or near the body.
(6) Notations of observations pertinent to the estimation of the time of death.
(7) Precise documentation of the location of the remains.
(c) The postmortem examination or autopsy of the unidentified body or remains may include full body X-rays.
(d) (1) At the sole and exclusive discretion of a coroner, medical examiner, or other agency tasked with performing an autopsy pursuant to Section 27491, an electronic image system, including, but not limited to, an X-ray computed tomography scanning system, may be used to fulfill the requirements of subdivision (b) or of a postmortem examination or autopsy required by other law, including but not limited to, Section 27520.
(2) Nothing in this subdivision imposes a duty upon any coroner, medical examiner, or other agency tasked with performing autopsies pursuant to Section 27491 to use an electronic image system to perform autopsies or to acquire the capability to do so.
(3) A coroner, medical examiner, or other agency tasked with performing an autopsy pursuant to Section 27491 shall not use an electronic imaging system to conduct an autopsy in any investigation where the circumstances surrounding the death afford a reasonable basis to suspect that the death was caused by or related to the criminal act of another and it is necessary to collect evidence for presentation in a court of law. If the results of an autopsy performed using electronic imaging provides the basis to suspect that the death was caused by or related to the criminal act of another, and it is necessary to collect evidence for presentation in a court of law, then a dissection autopsy shall be performed in order to determine the cause and manner of death.
(4) An autopsy may be conducted using an X-ray computed tomography scanning system notwithstanding the existence of a certificate of religious belief properly executed in accordance with Section 27491.43.
(e) The coroner, medical examiner, or other agency performing a postmortem examination or autopsy shall prepare a final report of investigation in a format established by the Department of Justice. The final report shall list or describe the information collected pursuant to the postmortem examination or autopsy conducted under subdivision (b).
(f) The body of an unidentified deceased person shall not be cremated or buried until the jaws (maxilla and mandible with teeth), or other bone sample if the jaws are not available, and other tissue samples are retained for future possible use. Unless the coroner, medical examiner, or other agency performing a postmortem examination or autopsy has determined that the body of the unidentified deceased person has suffered significant deterioration or decomposition, the jaws shall not be removed until immediately before the body is cremated or buried. The coroner, medical examiner, or other agency responsible for a postmortem examination or autopsy shall retain the jaws and other tissue samples for one year after a positive identification is made, and no civil or criminal challenges are pending, or indefinitely.
(g) If the coroner, medical examiner, or other agency performing a postmortem examination or autopsy with the aid of the dental examination and any other identifying findings is unable to establish the identity of the body or human remains, the coroner, medical examiner, or other agency shall submit dental charts and dental X-rays of the unidentified deceased person to the Department of Justice on forms supplied by the Department of Justice within 45 days of the date the body or human remains were discovered.
(h) If the coroner, medical examiner, or other agency performing a postmortem examination or autopsy with the aid of the dental examination and other identifying findings is unable to establish the identity of the body or human remains, the coroner, medical examiner, or other agency shall submit the final report of investigation to the Department of Justice within 180 days of the date the body or human remains were discovered. The final report of investigation shall list or describe the information collected pursuant to the postmortem examination or autopsy conducted under subdivision (b), and any anthropology report, fingerprints, photographs, and autopsy report.