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SB-1163 Postmortem examination or autopsy: unidentified body or human remains: medical examiner: attending physician and surgeon.(2017-2018)

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Date Published: 04/16/2018 09:00 PM
SB1163:v97#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Senate  April 16, 2018
Amended  IN  Senate  April 03, 2018

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2017–2018 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill No. 1163


Introduced by Senator Galgiani

February 14, 2018


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


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 1163, as amended, Galgiani. Postmortem examination or autopsy: unidentified body or human remains: medical examiner: attending physician and surgeon.
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 and or if the surviving spouse of the deceased requests the coroner to do so in writing. Existing law makes a postmortem examination or autopsy conducted at the discretion of a coroner, medical examiner, or other agency upon an unidentified human body or human remains subject to certain specified provisions of law.
This bill would require a postmortem examination or autopsy upon an unidentified body or human remains to only be conducted by an attending physician and surgeon or chief medical examiner who is a board-certified forensic pathologist. The bill would require an agency tasked with the exhumation of a body or skeletal remains of a deceased person that has suffered significant deterioration or decomposition, 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, to perform the exhumation under the direction of a board-certified forensic pathologist and would authorize that board-certified forensic pathologist to retain the services of an anthropologist.
Existing law requires a postmortem examination or autopsy to include certain procedures, including, but not limited to, a dental examination that is authorized to be conducted by a qualified dentist as determined by the coroner. Existing law authorizes the postmortem examination or autopsy of the unidentified body or remains to include full body X-rays.
This bill would instead provide that the dental examination is authorized to be conducted by a qualified dentist as determined by the coroner, medical examiner, or attending physician and surgeon. The bill would additionally authorize the postmortem examination or autopsy of the unidentified body or remains to include computed tomography scans.
Existing law authorizes the use of an electronic image system during an autopsy at the sole discretion of a coroner, medical examiner, or other agency tasked with performing an autopsy, except as specified. Existing law requires a coroner, medical examiner, or other agency tasked with performing a postmortem examination or an autopsy to, among other things, submit dental charts and dental X-rays charts, dental X-rays, and the final report of investigation to the Department of Justice, as specified. Existing law, unless the coroner, medical examiner, or other agency performing a postmortem examination or autopsy determines the body of the unidentified deceased person has suffered significant deterioration or decomposition, prohibits the jaws from being removed until immediately before the body is cremated or buried and requires the coroner, medical examiner, or other agency to retain the jaws and other tissue samples for a specified period of time.
This bill would additionally apply those above-described provisions to an attending physician and surgeon. The bill would require the coroner, medical examiner, attending physician and surgeon, or other agency to, instead, retain the samples of tissue and bone for a specified period of time.
Existing law prohibits the body of an unidentified deceased person from being cremated or buried until the jaws and other tissues samples are retained for future possible use.
This bill would require the jaws and other tissue samples appropriate samples of tissue and bone to be retained by an attending physician and surgeon or a chief medical examiner who is a board-certified forensic pathologist for future possible use, including, but not limited to, identification purposes. The bill would, for an unidentified body or human remains, require that appropriate samples of tissues tissue and bone be taken before the unidentified body or human remains are cremated or buried, as specified.
This bill would define “attending physician and surgeon” for the purposes of these provisions as a physician and surgeon licensed to practice medicine in this state performing a postmortem examination or autopsy, as specified.
By placing new requirements on local governments for performing postmortem examinations or autopsies, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that the bill contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement for those costs shall be made pursuant to the statutory provisions noted above.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES  

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 upon an unidentified body or human remains shall only be conducted by an attending physician and surgeon or the chief medical examiner who is a board-certified forensic pathologist certified by the American Board of Pathology.
(c) Any agency tasked with the exhumation of a body or skeletal remains of a deceased person that has suffered significant deterioration or decomposition, 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, shall perform the exhumation under the direction of a board-certified forensic pathologist certified by the American Board of Pathology. The board-certified forensic pathologist may, at his or her discretion when necessary, retain the services of an anthropologist.
(d) 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, medical examiner, or attending physician and surgeon.
(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.
(e) The postmortem examination or autopsy of the unidentified body or remains may include full body X-rays. X-rays or computed tomography scans.
(f) (1) At the sole and exclusive discretion of a coroner, medical examiner, attending physician and surgeon, or other agency tasked with performing an autopsy pursuant to Section 27491, an electronic image system, including, but not limited to, an X-ray machine or computed tomography scanning system, may be used to fulfill the requirements of subdivision (d) or of a postmortem examination or autopsy required by other law, including, but not limited to, Section 27520.
(2) This subdivision does not impose a duty upon any coroner, medical examiner, attending physician and surgeon, 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, attending physician and surgeon, 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 or computed tomography scanning system scans notwithstanding the existence of a certificate of religious belief properly executed in accordance with Section 27491.43.
(g) The coroner, medical examiner, attending physician and surgeon, 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 (d)
(h) 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 appropriate samples of tissue and bone are retained by an attending physician and surgeon or the chief medical examiner who is a board-certified forensic pathologist certified by the American Board of Pathology for future possible use, including, but not limited to, identification purposes.
(i) For an unidentified body or human remains, appropriate samples of tissues tissue and bone shall be taken before the body or human remains are cremated or buried. The types of samples or tissues of tissue and bone that are taken shall be determined by an attending physician and surgeon or chief medical examiner who is a board-certified forensic pathologist certified by the American Board of Pathology. The samples of tissues obtained, the method of procurement or dissection of tissues, those samples, and the handling, processing, and storage of samples shall be within, and guided by, the generally accepted standards of practice of medicine and the generally accepted principles of medicine.
(j) Unless the coroner, medical examiner, attending physician and surgeon, or other agency performing a postmortem examination or autopsy according to standards of medical practice has determined that the body of the unidentified deceased person has suffered significant deterioration or decomposition, the jaws and other tissue samples shall not be removed until immediately before the body is cremated or buried. The coroner, medical examiner, attending physician and surgeon, or other agency responsible for a postmortem examination or autopsy shall retain the jaws and other tissue samples samples of tissue and bone for one year after a positive identification is made, and no civil or criminal challenges are pending, or indefinitely.
(k) If the coroner, medical examiner, attending physician and surgeon, 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.
(l) If the coroner, medical examiner, attending physician and surgeon, 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, attending physician and surgeon, 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), (d), or (i) and any anthropology report, fingerprints, photographs, and autopsy report.
(m) For the purposes of this section, “attending physician and surgeon” means a physician and surgeon licensed to practice medicine in this state performing a postmortem examination or autopsy pursuant to this section.

SEC. 2.

 If the Commission on State Mandates determines that this act contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement to local agencies and school districts for those costs shall be made pursuant to Part 7 (commencing with Section 17500) of Division 4 of Title 2 of the Government Code.