Dr. Richard Pan Introduces Bill to Boost Public Confidence in Autopsy Reports

SB 1303 Requires that Autopsies be Conducted by Medical Experts

February 21, 2018

SACRAMENTO –Dr. Richard pan has introduced SB 1303 to ensure autopsies are conducted only by licensed physicians and forensic autopsy reports are accurate and unbiased.

“I have introduced SB 1303 because 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.”

In December, Dr. Bennet Omalu, San Joaquin County’s chief forensic pathologist resigned alleging 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 do all we can as a society to safeguard the public interest and protect the integrity of death investigation and independence of physicians in providing best practices and best standards of practice to the good people of our wonderful state. There should never be a perceived or real suspicion by anyone in our community that the opinions provided by a physician regarding causes and manners of death, especially in the court of law, are biased or have been influenced by any interested party including district attorneys, defense attorneys, sheriffs, police officers or family members. We must always do what we can as one California family to seek the truth and protect that one truth in all that we do no matter how inconvenient the truth may be,” said Dr. Bennet Omalu.

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 forensic autopsies be conducted only by a licensed a physician or surgeon in counties with 500,000 people or more.

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.

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.

# # #