Dr. Richard Pan’s Bill to Boost Public Confidence in Autopsy Reports Passes the Senate Governance & Finance Committee

April 11, 2018

SACRAMENTO, CA –Senate Bill 1303 to require autopsies be conducted by medical experts to ensure they are accurate and unbiased passed the Senate Governance & Finance Committee today.

“Autopsy reports provide critical information in determining the cause and manner of death and we must have the confidence in their accuracy,” said Dr. Pan, a pediatrician and Senator representing the Sacramento region. “The public and juries need to trust that they will receive accurate and objective information to make the correct verdict on a criminal case.”

Current law allows non-medically trained individuals, who are often elected or appointed, to conduct the autopsies. SB 1303 would remove the possibility of conflict of interest by requiring that the office of the coroner or the sheriff’s coroner’s office, be replaced with an office of the medical examiner in counties with a population of 500,000 or greater, and for those counties not governed by county charters. SB 1303 would impact Contra Costa, Kern, Riverside, San Joaquin, Sonoma and Stanislaus counties.

Dr. Bennet Omalu, who testified in favor of the Senate Bill 1303 in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee was San Joaquin County’s chief forensic pathologist before he resigned in December 2017.  He alleged that Sheriff-Coroner Steve Moore interfered with death investigations to protect law enforcement officers, and influenced and controlled the judgments and opinions of physicians.

“We must protect the integrity of death investigations and the independence of physicians seeking the truth no matter how inconvenient the truth may be. SB 1303 ensures those seeking justice through our courts system can trust death investigations in California,” said Dr. Bennet Omalu.

SB 1303 is sponsored by the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (UAPD) and the California Medical Association. “For the sake of families seeking closure and justice, we must ensure the accuracy of forensic autopsies,” said Dr. Stuart A. Bussey, M.D., J.D., president of UAPD.

“This is a huge step forward in restoring public trust in our criminal justice system at its crossroads with medicine,” said CMA President Theodore M. Mazer, M.D. “I applaud the committee and Senators Pan and Galgiani for their commitment to this important issue. SB 1303 will ensure that no family should ever have to worry about their loved one’s autopsy being corrupted or influenced by non-experts in medicine.”

In 2016 Dr. Richard Pan authored SB 1189 which stated that if law enforcement personnel was directly involved with the custody of an individual and that person died in their care, they would not be allowed inside the autopsy room during the performance of the autopsy.  Further, it required police reports, crime scene photos and videos or other information that is in the possession of law enforcement be made available to the medical examiner prior to the completion of the death investigation.

 

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