Today's Law As Amended


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SB-1189 Postmortem examinations or autopsies: forensic pathologists.(2015-2016)



As Amends the Law Today
As Amends the Law on Nov 22, 2016


SECTION 1.

 Section 27491.4 of the Government Code is amended to read:

27491.4.
 (a) For purposes of inquiry the coroner shall, within 24 hours or as soon as feasible thereafter, where the suspected cause of death is sudden infant death syndrome and, in all other cases, the coroner may, in his or her discretion, take possession of the body, which shall include the authority to exhume the body, order it removed to a convenient place, and make or cause to be made a postmortem examination, or cause to be made an autopsy thereon, and make or cause to be made an analysis of the stomach, stomach contents, blood, organs, fluids, or tissues of the body. The detailed medical findings resulting from an inspection of the body or autopsy by an examining licensed physician and surgeon shall be either reduced to writing or permanently preserved on recording discs or other similar recording media, shall include all positive and negative findings pertinent to establishing the cause of death in accordance with medicolegal practice and this, along with the written opinions and conclusions of the examining licensed physician and surgeon, shall be included in the coroner’s record of the death. The coroner shall have the right to retain only those tissues of the body removed at the time of the autopsy as may, in his or her opinion, be necessary or advisable to the inquiry into the case, or for the verification of his or her findings. Only individuals who are directly involved in the investigation of the death of the decedent may be present during the performance of the autopsy.
(b) In any case in which the coroner knows, or has reason to believe, that the deceased has made valid provision for the disposition of his or her body or a part or parts thereof for medical or scientific purposes in accordance with Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 7150) of Part 1 of Division 7 of the Health and Safety Code, the coroner shall neither perform nor authorize any other person to perform an autopsy on the body unless the coroner has contacted or attempted to contact the physician last in attendance to the deceased. If the physician cannot be contacted, the coroner shall then notify or attempt to notify one of the following of the need for an autopsy to determine the cause of death: (1) the surviving spouse; (2) a surviving child or parent; (3) a surviving brother or sister; (4) any other kin or person who has acquired the right to control the disposition of the remains. Following a period of 24 hours after attempting to contact the physician last in attendance and notifying or attempting to notify one of the responsible parties listed above, the coroner may authorize the performance of an autopsy, as otherwise authorized or required by law.
(c) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to prohibit the discretion of the coroner to cause to be conducted an autopsy upon any victim of sudden, unexpected, or unexplained death or any death known or suspected of resulting from an accident, suicide, or apparent criminal means, or other death, as described in Section 27491.

SEC. 2.

 Section 27491.41 of the Government Code is amended to read:

27491.41.
 (a) For purposes of this section, “sudden infant death syndrome” means the sudden death of any infant that is unexpected by the history of the infant and where a thorough postmortem examination fails to demonstrate an adequate cause of death.
(b) The Legislature finds and declares that sudden infant death syndrome, also referred to as SIDS, is the leading cause of death for children under age one, striking one out of every 500 children. The Legislature finds and declares that sudden infant death syndrome is a serious problem within the State of California, and that the public interest is served by research and study of sudden infant death syndrome and its potential causes and indications.
(c) (1) To facilitate these purposes, the coroner shall, within 24 hours or as soon thereafter as feasible, cause an autopsy to be performed in any case where an infant has died suddenly and unexpectedly.
(2) However, if the attending licensed physician and surgeon desires to certify that the cause of death is sudden infant death syndrome, an autopsy may be performed at the discretion of the coroner. If the coroner causes an autopsy to be performed pursuant to this section, he or she shall also certify the cause of death.
(d) The autopsy shall be conducted pursuant to a standardized protocol developed by the State Department of Public Health. The protocol is exempt from the procedural requirements pertaining to the adoption of administrative rules and regulations pursuant to Article 5 (commencing with Section 11346) of Chapter 3.5 of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code.
(e) The protocol shall be followed by all coroners throughout the state when conducting an evaluation as part of an autopsy required by this section. The coroner shall state on the certificate of death that sudden infant death syndrome was the cause of death when the coroner’s findings are consistent with the definition of sudden infant death syndrome specified in the standardized autopsy protocol. The protocol may include requirements and standards for scene investigations, requirements for specific data, criteria for ascertaining cause of death based on the autopsy, and criteria for any specific tissue sampling, and any other requirements. The protocol may also require that specific tissue samples shall be provided to a central tissue repository designated by the State Department of Public Health.
(f) The State Department of Public Health shall establish procedures and protocols for access by researchers to any tissues, or other materials or data authorized by this section. Research may be conducted by any individual with a valid scientific interest and prior approval from the State Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects. The tissue samples, the materials, and all data shall be subject to the confidentiality requirements of Section 103850 of the Health and Safety Code.
(g) The coroner may take tissue samples for research purposes from infants who have died suddenly and unexpectedly without consent of the responsible adult if the tissue removal is not likely to result in any visible disfigurement.
(h) A coroner or licensed physician and surgeon shall not be liable for damages in a civil action for any act or omission done in compliance with this section.
(i)  Consent of any person is not required before undertaking the autopsy required by this section.

SEC. 3.

 Section 27491.43 of the Government Code is amended to read:

27491.43.
 (a) (1) Notwithstanding any other law, except as otherwise provided in this section, in any case in which the coroner, before the beginning of an autopsy, dissection, or removal of corneal tissue, pituitary glands, or any other organ, tissue, or fluid, has received a certificate of religious belief, executed by the decedent as provided in subdivision (b), that the procedure would be contrary to his or her religious belief, the coroner shall neither perform, nor order the performance of, that procedure on the body of the decedent.
(2) If, before beginning the procedure, the coroner is informed by a relative or a friend of the decedent that the decedent had executed a certificate of religious belief, the coroner shall not order an autopsy to be performed, except as otherwise provided in this section, for 48 hours. If the certificate is produced within 48 hours, the case shall be governed by this section. If the certificate is not produced within that time, the case shall be governed by the other provisions of this article.
(b) Any person, 18 years of age or older, may execute a certificate of religious belief which shall state in clear and unambiguous language that any postmortem anatomical dissection or that specified procedures would violate the religious convictions of the person. The certificate shall be signed and dated by the person in the presence of at least two witnesses. Each witness shall also sign the certificate and shall print on the certificate his or her name and residence address.
(c) Notwithstanding the existence of a certificate, the coroner may at any time cause an autopsy to be performed or any other procedure if he or she has a reasonable suspicion that the death was caused by the criminal act of another or by a contagious disease constituting a public health hazard.
(d) (1) If a certificate is produced, and if subdivision (c) does not apply, the coroner may petition the superior court, without fee, for an order authorizing an autopsy or other procedure or for an order setting aside the certificate as invalid. Notice of the proceeding shall be given to the person who produced the certificate. The proceeding shall have preference over all other cases.
(2) The court shall set aside the certificate if it finds that the certificate was not properly executed or that it does not clearly state the decedent’s religious objection to the proposed procedure.
(3) The court may order an autopsy or other procedure despite a valid certificate if it finds that the cause of death is not evident, and that the interest of the public in determining the cause of death outweighs its interest in permitting the decedent and like persons fully to exercise their religious convictions.
(4) Any procedure performed pursuant to paragraph (3) shall be the least intrusive procedure consistent with the order of the court.
(5) If the petition is denied, and no stay is granted, the body of the deceased shall immediately be released to the person authorized to control its disposition.
(e) In any case in which the circumstances, manner, or cause of death is not determined because of the provisions of this section, the coroner may state on the certificate of death that an autopsy was not conducted because of the provisions of this section.
(f) A coroner shall not be liable for damages in a civil action for any act or omission taken in compliance with the provisions of this section.

SEC. 4.

 Section 27491.46 of the Government Code is amended to read:

27491.46.
 (a) The coroner shall have the right to retain pituitary glands solely for transmission to a university, for use in research or the advancement of medical science, in those cases in which the coroner has required an autopsy to be performed pursuant to this chapter, and during a 48-hour period following such autopsy the body has not been claimed and the coroner has not been informed of any relatives of the decedent.
(b) In the course of any autopsy, the coroner may cause to be removed the pituitary gland from the body for transmittal to any public agency for use in manufacturing a hormone necessary for the physical growth of persons who are, or may become, hypopituitary dwarfs, if the coroner has no knowledge of objection to the removal and release of the pituitary gland having been made by the decedent or any other person specified in Section 7151.5 of the Health and Safety Code. Neither the coroner nor the medical examiner authorizing the removal of the pituitary gland, nor any hospital, medical center, tissue bank, storage facility, or person acting upon the request, order, or direction of the coroner or medical examiner in the removal of the pituitary gland pursuant to this section, shall incur civil liability for the removal of the pituitary gland in an action brought by any person who did not object prior to the removal of the pituitary gland, nor be subject to criminal prosecution for removal of the pituitary gland pursuant to the authority of this section.
Nothing in this subdivision shall supersede the terms of any gift made pursuant to Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 7150) of Part 1 of Division 7 of the Health and Safety Code.

SEC. 5.

 Section 27491.47 of the Government Code is amended to read:

27491.47.
 (a) Notwithstanding any other law, the coroner may, in the course of an autopsy, authorize the removal and release of corneal eye tissue from a body within the coroner’s custody, if all of the following conditions are met:
(1) The autopsy has otherwise been authorized.
(2) The coroner has no knowledge of objection to the removal and release of corneal tissue having been made by the decedent or any other person specified in Section 7151 of the Health and Safety Code and has obtained any one of the following:
(A) A dated and signed written consent by the donor or any other person specified in Section 7151 of the Health and Safety Code on a form that clearly indicates the general intended use of the tissue and contains the signature of at least one witness.
(B) Proof of the existence of a recorded telephonic consent by the donor or any other person specified in Section 7151 of the Health and Safety Code in the form of an audio recording of the conversation or a transcript of the recorded conversation, which indicates the general intended use of the tissue.
(C) A document recording a verbal telephonic consent by the donor or any other person specified in Section 7151 of the Health and Safety Code, witnessed and signed by no fewer than two members of the requesting entity, hospital, eye bank, or procurement organization, memorializing the consenting person’s knowledge of and consent to the general intended use of the gift.
The form of consent obtained under subparagraph (A), (B), or (C) shall be kept on file by the requesting entity and the official agency for a minimum of three years.
(3) The removal of the tissue will not unnecessarily mutilate the body, be accomplished by enucleation, nor interfere with the autopsy.
(4) The tissue will be removed by a licensed physician and surgeon or a trained transplant technician.
(5) The tissue will be released to a public or nonprofit facility for transplant, therapeutic, or scientific purposes.
(b) Neither the coroner nor medical examiner authorizing the removal of the corneal tissue, nor any hospital, medical center, tissue bank, storage facility, or person acting upon the request, order, or direction of the coroner or medical examiner in the removal of corneal tissue pursuant to this section, shall incur civil liability for the removal in an action brought by any person who did not object prior to the removal of the corneal tissue, nor be subject to criminal prosecution for the removal of the corneal tissue pursuant to this section.
(c) This section shall not be construed to interfere with the ability of a person to make an anatomical gift pursuant to the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 7150) of Part 1 of Division 7 of the Health and Safety Code).

SEC. 6.

 Section 27520 of the Government Code is amended to read:

27520.
 (a) The coroner shall cause to be performed an autopsy on a decedent, for which an autopsy has not already been performed, if the surviving spouse requests him or her to do so in writing. If there is no surviving spouse, the coroner shall cause an autopsy to be performed if requested to do so in writing by a surviving child or parent, or if there is no surviving child or parent, by the next of kin of the deceased.
(b) The coroner may cause to be performed an autopsy on a decedent, for which an autopsy has already been performed, if the surviving spouse requests him or her to do so in writing. If there is no surviving spouse, the coroner may cause an autopsy to be performed if requested to do so in writing by a surviving child or parent, or if there is no surviving child or parent, by the next of kin of the deceased.
(c) The cost of an autopsy requested pursuant to either subdivision (a) or (b) shall be borne by the person requesting that it be performed.

SEC. 7.

 Section 27522 is added to the Government Code, to read:

27522.
 (a) A forensic autopsy shall only be conducted by a licensed physician and surgeon. The results of a forensic autopsy shall only be determined by a licensed physician and surgeon.
(b) A forensic autopsy shall be defined as an examination of a body of a decedent to generate medical evidence for which the cause of death is determined. At the direction and supervision of a coroner, a medical examiner, or a licensed physician and surgeon, trained county personnel who are necessary to the performance of an autopsy may take body measurements or retrieve blood, urine, or vitreous samples from the body of a decedent.
(c) For purposes of this section, a postmortem examination shall be defined as the external examination of the body where no manner or cause of death is determined.
(d) For purposes of this section, the manner of death shall be determined by the coroner or medical examiner of a county. If a forensic autopsy is conducted by a licensed physician and surgeon, the coroner or medical examiner shall consult with the licensed physician and surgeon in the determination of the manner of death.
(e) For health and safety purposes, all persons in the autopsy suite shall be informed of the risks presented by bloodborne pathogens and that they should wear personal protective equipment in accordance with the requirements described in Section 5193 of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations or its successor.
(f) (1) Only individuals who are directly involved in the investigation of the death of the decedent shall be allowed into the autopsy suite.
(2) If an individual dies due to the involvement of law enforcement activity, law enforcement personnel directly involved in the death of that individual shall not be involved with any portion of the postmortem examination, nor allowed inside the autopsy suite during the performance of the autopsy.
(3) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), individuals may be permitted in the autopsy suite for educational and research purposes at the discretion of the coroner and in consultation with any licensed physician and surgeon conducting an autopsy.
(g) Any police reports, crime scene or other information, videos, or laboratory tests that are in the possession of law enforcement and are related to a death that is incident to law enforcement activity shall be made available to the physician and surgeon who conducts the autopsy prior to the completion of the investigation of the death.
(h) This section shall not be construed to limit the practice of an autopsy for educational or research purposes.
SEC. 8.
 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.