HOUSE BILL 655
54th legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - first session, 2019
Karen C. Bash and William B. Pratt
RELATING TO MEDICAL INVESTIGATIONS; ENACTING THE MEDICAL INVESTIGATORS ACT; AMENDING AND REPEALING SECTIONS OF THE NMSA 1978 WHERE THE STATE MEDICAL INVESTIGATOR IS MENTIONED.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO:
SECTION 1. [NEW MATERIAL] SHORT TITLE.--Sections 1 through 16 of this act may be cited as the "Medical Investigators Act".
SECTION 2. [NEW MATERIAL] DEFINITIONS.--As used in the Medical Investigators Act:
A. "autopsy" means the systematic examination and dissection of a dead human body or human remains by a pathologist for the purpose of determining the condition of the body and the cause, mechanism or manner of death, evaluating the clinical diagnoses, obtaining and retaining specimens for specialized testing, retrieving and preserving physical evidence, identifying the deceased or educating medical professionals and students;
B. "board" means the board of medical investigators;
C. "body" means the body of a dead human or a part or remains of a dead human;
D. "case" means the investigation and examination of a body;
E. "cause of death" means the underlying disease or injury responsible for setting in motion a series of physiologic events culminating in death;
F. "child" means a person who has reached one year of age and has not yet reached eighteen years of age;
G. "consent autopsy" means an autopsy that is requested by an agency or person and that is performed with the written consent of the designated representative;
H. "deputy medical investigator" means a person who is employed by the office to conduct investigations into the circumstances of deaths potentially under the jurisdiction of the office and to perform external examinations;
I. "extended evaluation" means a delayed examination of a removed organ as part of an autopsy;
J. "external examination" means an inspection or examination of the outer surfaces of a body prior to or without an autopsy that might include radiologic imaging and sampling of body fluids or tissues for diagnostic purposes;
K. "forensic pathologist" means a licensed physician who is certified in forensic pathology by the American board of pathology or who has completed a training program in forensic pathology that is accredited by the accreditation council on graduate medical education and who has been officially qualified for examination in forensic pathology by the American board of pathology or who has an international equivalent;
L. "infant" means a born person who has not yet reached one year of age;
M. "investigation" means a medicolegal inquiry, whether slight or extensive, into a death;
N. "manner of death" means the classification of a death as natural, an accident, a homicide, a suicide or undetermined based in large part on the presence or absence of intent to harm and the presence or absence of injury, the purpose of which is to guide vital statistics nosologists to the correct external causation code in the International Classification of Diseases;
O. "medical investigator" means a forensic pathologist who investigates and examines deaths under the jurisdiction of the office to determine the condition of a body and to certify the cause and manner of death;
P. "next of kin" means the surviving spouse or closest relative or other person legally responsible for the body and personal property of a deceased;
Q. "office" means the office of the medical investigator;
R. "tribal representative" means a person designated by an Indian nation, tribe or pueblo as a liaison to the office to assist the office with the proper handling of a deceased person who was a member of the Indian nation, tribe or pueblo; and
S. "unattended death" means the death of a person who is not under the care of a health care provider authorized to sign a death certificate pursuant to the Medical Investigators Act, whether or not the death occurred in the physical presence of the health care provider.
SECTION 3. [NEW MATERIAL] BOARD CREATED.--
A. The "board of medical investigators" is created. The board consists of the following members:
(1) the dean of the university of New Mexico school of medicine;
(2) the secretary of health;
(3) the chief of the New Mexico state police;
(4) the chair of the board of funeral services; and
(5) the secretary of Indian affairs.
B. Members of the board shall receive no compensation, perquisite or allowance for their services as board members.
C. The board shall meet at least annually, and as often as necessary, to conduct board business. The chair or a majority of board members may call additional meetings. The chair shall call an additional meeting at the request of the chief medical investigator.
D. The dean of the university of New Mexico school of medicine shall call the first annual meeting of the board. At that meeting, the members shall elect a chair, vice chair and secretary from among the board's members.
E. The board shall select and employ the chief medical investigator.
F. The board shall formulate broad policy for the office. The office shall, subject to the approval of the board, adopt and promulgate rules necessary or appropriate to carry out the provisions of the Medical Investigators Act and properly investigate deaths occurring within this state.
SECTION 4. [NEW MATERIAL] OFFICE OF THE MEDICAL INVESTIGATOR--CREATED--CHIEF MEDICAL INVESTIGATOR--QUALIFICATIONS.--
A. The "office of the medical investigator" is created. The office shall be headed by the chief medical investigator.
B. The chief medical investigator shall be a physician who:
(1) is licensed pursuant to the Medical Practice Act or the Osteopathic Medicine Act;
(2) is certified in forensic pathology by the American board of pathology; and
(3) has at least six years of post-training experience as a forensic pathologist.
C. The chief medical investigator shall maintain the office at the university of New Mexico school of medicine. The university of New Mexico health sciences center shall provide physical space for the office. The chief medical investigator shall receive a faculty appointment in the department of pathology of the university of New Mexico school of medicine. The chief medical investigator must, at a minimum, meet the qualifications required for an associate professor appointment in the university of New Mexico school of medicine pursuant to its policies.
D. The office may maintain as many regional facilities as the chief medical investigator deems necessary.
SECTION 5. [NEW MATERIAL] RECORDS KEPT.--
A. The office shall maintain records of:
(1) investigations, including reports and materials received from other organizations;
(2) post-mortem inspections and examinations;
(3) autopsies, ancillary studies and consultations;
(4) personal property and evidence taken into possession;
(5) transportation and release of bodies and remains;
(6) fees collected; and
(7) any other information deemed necessary by the board.
B. Photographs, radiologic images and medical information may be disclosed in research and educational publications and forums; provided that all identifying information has been removed.
C. The identity of a body and the cause and manner of death shall be matters of public record. Once the identity of a body and the next of kin are determined by the office or any other agency, the office may use law enforcement agencies to ensure that the next of kin has been notified.
D. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, photographs kept as part of the final case investigation records by the office shall be released only upon authorization of the chief medical investigator or the chief medical investigator's designee to law enforcement officials, court officers, public health authorities, physicians and next of kin. All other final case investigation records kept by the office shall be released in accordance with the Inspection of Public Records Act.
SECTION 6. [NEW MATERIAL] FEES.--The board shall adopt and promulgate a fee schedule for services provided by the office.
SECTION 7. [NEW MATERIAL] ACCESS TO MEDICAL RECORDS--SUBPOENA POWER.--
A. The office shall be afforded prompt access and authority to receive electronic and paper copies of all relevant medical and mental health records pertinent to an investigation. The office shall also be afforded access to radiologic images and other medical studies in any format in which they are maintained. The office shall keep the collected information confidential, except as disclosed through reports and death certificates issued pursuant to the Medical Investigators Act.
B. The chief medical investigator or the chief medical investigator's designee may:
(1) administer oaths and issue subpoenas to compel attendance of any witness in an investigation;
(2) issue subpoenas duces tecum to require a witness to produce any books, records, documents, files or other things under the control of the person served; and
(3) issue subpoenas for the production of confidential medical records, mental health records, drug and alcohol abuse records and other relevant information from physicians, hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, residential care facilities and other health care providers when conducting an investigation.
C. A subpoena shall state with reasonable certainty the nature of the information required, the time and place where the information shall be produced, whether the subpoena requires the attendance of the person subpoenaed or only the production of documents or other tangible objects and the consequences of failure to obey the subpoena.
D. A subpoena shall be served by personal service upon the person to be subpoenaed or by certified mail addressed to the person at the person's last known address. A subpoena shall be served without cost by local or state law enforcement authorities. The service of the subpoena shall be at least three days prior to the required appearance or production. If the subpoena is served by certified mail, proof of service is the affidavit of mailing.
E. After service of a subpoena, if the person served neglects or refuses to comply with the subpoena, the office may apply to the district court of the county where the subpoena was served or the county where the subpoena was responded to for an order compelling compliance. Failure of the person to comply with the district court's order shall be punishable as contempt.
SECTION 8. [NEW MATERIAL] DUTIES OF THE OFFICE.--
A. The office shall:
(1) make inquiries and investigate, as necessary, a death, an anticipated death, a presumptive death where there is no body and any other death reported to the office to determine jurisdiction and the need for further investigation, external examination or autopsy;
(2) establish a system and procedures for dealing with deaths falling under the jurisdiction of the office to determine:
(a) the identity of a body;
(b) the condition of the body;
(c) the cause and manner of death; and
(d) any issues or potential issues of public health and public safety;
(3) when necessary in a death to be investigated, take legal custody of and transport the body and associated evidence from the place where the body is located to a facility of the office;
(4) file death certificates with the department of health in all cases that are accepted by the office; provided that death certificates shall not be filed in the absence of a body except by court order, by judicial decree or in the case of an emergency;
(5) maintain records of investigated deaths and publish an annual report that includes statistics on causes and manners of death in investigations under the jurisdiction of the office;
(6) without charge, provide a complete record of findings in any case to the district attorney, law enforcement authorities and next of kin upon request; the office may charge fees, subject to board approval, to provide reports and other materials to all other requestors; and
(7) maintain accreditation by the national association of medical examiners.
B. As persons and cultures might have certain requirements and expectations related to post-mortem disposition of a body, the office shall be sensitive to the cultural, religious or personal beliefs of next of kin.
C. The office shall provide testimony in criminal cases upon a valid subpoena. Testimony in civil cases and non-jurisdictional criminal cases shall be subject to a professional services fee.
SECTION 9. [NEW MATERIAL] DEATHS TO BE INVESTIGATED.--
A. The office shall have jurisdiction to investigate the facts and circumstances concerning all human deaths within the exterior boundaries of New Mexico, exclusive of sovereign tribal domains or federal military or medical installations, regardless of where the injuries leading to death may have occurred, if:
(1) the death appears to be due to violence;
(2) the death is of known or suspected nonnatural causes;
(3) the death appears to be due to exposure to ethanol, toxins, poisons or medicinal or illicit drugs;
(4) the death is of an infant or a child and the death appears to be due to unexpected or unexplained causes;
(5) the deceased, who was not an infant or a child, was in apparent good health and the death appears to be of unexpected or unexplained causes;
(6) the death is a stillbirth and the mother is unattended by a health care provider at or after the delivery;
(7) the death occurs under unusual or suspicious circumstances;
(8) the death is known or suspected to be caused by diseases or other conditions constituting a threat to the public;
(9) the death is of a person in the custody of a governmental agency or a representative of a governmental agency;
(10) the death is unattended by a physician;
(11) the death allegedly resulted from unexpected complications or unintended consequences of medical intervention;
(12) the body is to be cremated, buried at sea or disposed of by means other than burial; or
(13) the cause of death or the manner of death is of public interest.
B. Anyone who becomes aware of a death potentially under the jurisdiction of the office shall immediately report it to the office and, if appropriate, to law enforcement authorities. Upon receipt of notification of a death, the office shall determine if the office has jurisdiction over the body and, if so, shall:
(1) if necessary, take charge of the body; and
(2) notify law enforcement authorities when appropriate.
C. When the office investigates a death and does not establish jurisdiction, the death certificate shall be completed by the deceased's physician of record, if a physician of record exists.
D. The scope and manner of the office's investigation are within the office's discretion.
SECTION 10. [NEW MATERIAL] SCENE INVESTIGATIONS--CRIMINAL PENALTY.--
A. An investigation shall be conducted by a deputy medical investigator for deaths potentially under the jurisdiction of the office and, where appropriate, shall include timely evaluations of the death scene. The office shall prepare written reports for all cases that the office investigates.
B. A scene investigation may be conducted at the location where a body is discovered as well as other locations thought to bear upon the death of the person.
C. A scene shall be secured by a law enforcement agency and kept free of disturbance.
D. When the office has jurisdiction, the office shall take custody of a body and of clothing, personal effects and evidence on the body.
E. The office may seize and take custody of all other evidence that is pertinent to an investigation and that is not taken by law enforcement personnel.
F. Law enforcement personnel shall notify the office as soon as the law enforcement personnel becomes aware of a death falling within the jurisdiction of the office, and the office shall inform appropriate law enforcement personnel before it begins its investigation.
G. Law enforcement personnel shall not restrict office personnel from timely access to and retrieval of a body. The office may restrict law enforcement personnel from access to the body and clothing and personal effects on the body. It is unlawful to willfully and unnecessarily touch, remove or disturb any dead body required by law to be investigated by the office or any article on the body or disturb its surroundings until authority is granted by a representative of the office. Any person violating a provision of this subsection is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.
H. Evidence collected by law enforcement personnel shall be made available to the office and vice versa, except where testing is destructive and does not permit further analysis by another agency.
I. Law enforcement investigative reports as well as videos, reports of evidence analyses and other materials germane to office investigations shall be made available to the office.
SECTION 11. [NEW MATERIAL] POST-MORTEM EXAMINATIONS AND AUTOPSIES.--
A. An investigation, an external examination, an extended evaluation or an autopsy shall be conducted as necessary and may be performed over the implicit or explicit objections, including cultural, religious or personal objections, of the next of kin or other parties.
B. The chief medical investigator or the chief medical investigator's designee shall decide the extent of the investigation and whether to perform an autopsy or other form of evaluation when the next of kin or other parties raise objections.
C. The office may request laboratory analyses, procedures and expert consultations. The scientific laboratory division of the department of health shall provide routine toxicologic and microbiologic laboratory testing to the office.
D. If the office determines that an extended evaluation is required, the office shall make reasonable efforts to explain to the next of kin why the extended evaluation is needed and take into consideration any cultural, religious or personal needs identified by the next of kin or tribal representative if the deceased was a member of an Indian nation, tribe or pueblo.
E. The board may establish by rule a process for a next of kin to request review of the cause and manner of death.
SECTION 12. [NEW MATERIAL] ORGANS AND TISSUES.--The office may:
A. examine, process, analyze and test organs and tissues and other specimens from a body or order examination, processing, analysis, testing or consultation by an outside facility;
B. retain organs, tissues and other specimens, including deoxyribonucleic acid specimens, from a body for diagnostic purposes; for future examination or reference; or for processing, quality control, analysis, testing, consultation or evidentiary purposes;
C. release organs and tissues to organ and tissue procurement organizations or allow the harvesting of organs and tissues for transplant purposes when appropriate and with the consent of the next of kin; and
D. release organs and tissues not ordinarily retained for the purposes stated in Subsection B of this section for education, research or other purposes upon the consent of the next of kin.
SECTION 13. [NEW MATERIAL] DISPOSITION OF BODIES, REMAINS AND PROPERTY.--
A. Upon approval by the chief medical investigator or the chief medical investigator's designee, a body shall be released to the next of kin.
B. An unidentified body shall be held for at least three months by the office. A dental examination, fingerprints, full body radiographs or computed tomography scan and collection of samples for potential deoxyribonucleic acid analysis shall be performed on all unidentified bodies where possible.
C. When an identified body is not claimed after two weeks, the body may be released for anatomical donation, cremation or burial by the county of residence of the deceased. If the county of residence is unknown or is out of the state, the body shall be cremated or buried by the county in which the body was found.
D. The office may cause a body to be frozen, properly embalmed or prepared for preservation for such time as the chief medical investigator or the chief medical investigator's designee deems appropriate.
E. All personal property of the deceased taken into possession by the office shall be catalogued and a written inventory shall be maintained.
F. Any personal property not held for evidence shall be released to the next of kin within thirty days of the completion of the investigation.
G. If the next of kin is in dispute or is unknown, the office shall retain the personal property until an executor or administrator is appointed by a court of competent jurisdiction. The office shall develop and the board shall approve procedures to dispose of any personal property that is not claimed after six months.
H. A signed affidavit of release form shall be obtained from the next of kin taking custody of the body and personal property from the office.
SECTION 14. [NEW MATERIAL] EXHUMATIONS.--The office may conduct an exhumation to determine the cause or manner of death, to investigate a public health or safety matter, to obtain evidence or to address a medical or legal issue. The office shall notify the executor or administrator of the deceased's estate or the next of kin unless exigent circumstances exist. The office may utilize local law enforcement or state police if additional security, assistance in gaining access or assistance in recovering the remains is needed to carry out the exhumation. The office may utilize funeral service providers to assist with exhumations conducted in cemeteries.
SECTION 15. [NEW MATERIAL] TRIBAL COLLABORATION.--
A. The office shall make reasonable efforts to determine if a deceased was a member of an Indian nation, tribe or pueblo. If a deceased was a member of an Indian nation, tribe or pueblo and the next of kin or tribal representative offers a cultural or religious objection to an autopsy, the office shall use due diligence to avoid an autopsy and shall use the least invasive means possible to satisfy the office's duties in conducting the investigation.
B. When a deceased was a member of an Indian nation, tribe or pueblo and an autopsy is required, the office shall attempt to provide advance notice of the autopsy to the next of kin or to the tribal representative. The office shall allow a law enforcement officer of the Indian nation, tribe or pueblo of the deceased to observe during the forensic autopsy. The law enforcement officer attending the forensic autopsy shall not interfere with the forensic autopsy procedure and shall follow the health rules governing autopsy procedures. The office shall provide documentation concerning the forensic autopsy, upon request, to the next of kin or, if none is identified, to the tribal representative.
C. After an autopsy has been conducted by the office on a deceased who was a member of an Indian nation, tribe or pueblo, the office shall use all due diligence to consult with the next of kin or, at the next of kin's direction, the tribal representative regarding the disposition of the body. Unless other treatment of the remains is required for investigation, the office shall replace all body parts with the exception of those materials potentially required for diagnosis. Upon request, the office shall provide written certification to the next of kin or tribal representative of the disposition of the body parts.
D. The office shall request that each Indian nation, tribe or pueblo designate a tribal representative that the office may contact.
SECTION 16. [NEW MATERIAL] REPORTS OF DEATH--PENALTY.--
A. Whoever becomes aware of the sudden, unexpected, suspicious, violent, nonnatural or unattended death of a person or finds a body shall report the death or the body to the appropriate law enforcement agency or the office within a reasonable period of time.
B. Except on authority of the office or until the office has taken custody of the body and completed its investigation, a person shall not:
(1) touch, remove, disturb or conduct an autopsy on a body that is required by law to be reported to the office;
(2) touch, remove or disturb an article or object on or near a body that is required by law to be reported to the office; or
(3) disturb the surroundings of a body that is required by law to be reported to the office.
C. A person who violates Subsection A or B of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000) or by imprisonment for a definite term not to exceed one year or both.
SECTION 17. Section 24-12-1 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1973, Chapter 354, Section 1, as amended) is amended to read:
"24-12-1. NOTIFICATION OF RELATIVES OF DECEASED--AUTHORIZATION OF PERSON DESIGNATED ON RECORD OF EMERGENCY DATA FORM TO DIRECT BURIAL--UNCLAIMED [DECEDENTS] DECEASED.--
A. State, county or municipal officials, or a hospital or another health care facility, having charge or control of a body of a dead person shall use due diligence to notify the relatives of the deceased.
B. If the [decedent] deceased died on or off a military installation while serving in any branch of the United States armed forces, the United States reserve forces or the national guard, [during any period of duty when the secretary of the military service concerned can provide for the recovery, care and disposition of remains, and the decendent completed a United States department of defense record of emergency data form or its successor form, the authority to direct the burial of the decedent or to provide other funeral and disposition arrangements for the decedent devolves on the person designated by the decedent pursuant to that form] the deceased's next of kin shall be notified according to the procedures set forth by the United States department of defense. If the deceased is a known veteran of the United States armed forces, the state, county or municipal officials or hospital or other health care facility having charge or control of the body of a dead person shall use due diligence to notify the next of kin of the deceased.
C. If no claimant is found who will assume the cost of [burial] disposition, the official having charge or control of the body shall notify the [medical investigator stating, when possible, the name, age, sex and cause of death of the deceased] county where the deceased resided at the time of the death and provide detailed data demonstrating due diligence in identifying and locating a next of kin willing to assume this responsibility and noting when no next of kin is found.
D. The body shall be embalmed or cremated according to rules of the state agency, county or municipality having jurisdiction. [After the exercise of due diligence required in Subsection A of this section and the report to the medical investigator required in Subsection C of this section, the medical investigator shall be furnished detailed data demonstrating such due diligence and the fact that no claimant has been found. When the medical investigator has determined that due diligence has been exercised, that reasonable opportunity has been afforded relatives to claim the body and that the body has not been claimed, the medical investigator shall issue a certificate determining that the remains are unclaimed.] In no case shall an unclaimed body be disposed of in less than two weeks from the date of the discovery of the body."
SECTION 18. Section 24-12-2 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1973, Chapter 354, Section 2, as amended) is amended to read:
"24-12-2. DISPOSITION OF UNCLAIMED BODY--TRANSMISSION OF RECORDS OF INSTITUTION.--
A. [Upon the issuance of his certificate that the remains are unclaimed] When the office of the medical investigator [shall retain the body for use only for medical education or shall certify that the body is unnecessary or unsuited for medical education and release it to the state, county or municipal officials having charge or control of the body for burial] deems that the remains from jurisdictional cases are unclaimed, the office may permit the body to be used for education or may release it to the state, county or municipal officials having charge or control of the body for disposition. The state, county or municipal officials shall have the body removed for disposition within [three] two weeks from the date on which the office of the medical investigator released the body.
B. If the body is retained for use in [medical] education, the facility or person receiving the body for that use shall pay the costs of preservation and transportation of the body and shall keep a permanent record of bodies received.
C. If a deceased person was an inmate of a public institution, the institution shall transmit, upon request of the medical investigator, a brief medical history of the unclaimed dead person for purposes of identification and permanent record. The records shall be open to inspection by any state or county official or district attorney.
D. If a deceased is a known United States veteran, the office of the medical investigator shall:
(1) contact the United States department of veterans affairs to determine eligibility for burial or cremation benefits; and
(2) proceed with unclaimed procedures and inform the county wherein the deceased resided at the time of death of the veteran's eligibility for burial or cremation benefits through the United States department of veterans affairs."
SECTION 19. Section 24-12-4 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1973, Chapter 354, Section 4, as amended) is amended to read:
"24-12-4. POST-MORTEM EXAMINATIONS AND AUTOPSIES--CONSENT REQUIRED.--
A. An autopsy or post-mortem examination may be performed on the body of a deceased person by a licensed physician [or, surgeon], pathologist or, under the supervision of a licensed physician, a medical student or resident physician, whenever consent to the procedure has been given by:
(1) written authorization signed by the deceased during [his] the person's lifetime;
(2) authorization of any person or on behalf of any entity whom the deceased designated in writing during [his] the person's lifetime to take charge of [his] the deceased's body for burial or other purposes;
(3) authorization of the deceased's surviving spouse;
(4) authorization of an adult child, parent or adult brother or sister of the deceased if there is no surviving spouse or if the surviving spouse is unavailable, incompetent or has not claimed the body for burial after notification of the death of the [decedent] deceased;
(5) authorization of any other relative of the deceased if none of the persons enumerated in Paragraphs (2) through (4) of this subsection is available or competent to give authorization; or
(6) authorization of the public official, agency or person having custody of the body for burial if none of the persons enumerated in Paragraphs (2) through (5) of this subsection is available or competent to give authorization.
B. An autopsy or post-mortem examination shall not be performed under authorization given under the provisions of Paragraph (4) of Subsection A of this section by any one of the persons enumerated if, before the procedure is performed, any one of the other persons enumerated objects in writing to the physician or surgeon by whom the procedure is to be performed.
[C. An autopsy or post-mortem examination may be performed by a pathologist at the written direction of the district attorney or his authorized representative in any case in which the district attorney is conducting a criminal investigation.
D. An autopsy or post-mortem examination may be performed by a pathologist at the direction of the state, district or deputy medical investigator when he suspects the death was caused by a criminal act or omission or if the cause of death is obscure.
E.] C. For purposes of this section, "autopsy":
(1) means a post-mortem dissection of a dead human body in order to determine the cause, seat or nature of disease or injury and includes the retention of tissues customarily removed during the course of autopsy for evidentiary, identification, diagnosis, scientific or therapeutic purposes; and
(2) does not include an autopsy that is within the jurisdiction of the office of the medical investigator pursuant to the Medical Investigators Act."
SECTION 20. Section 24-14-20 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1961, Chapter 44, Section 18, as amended) is amended to read:
"24-14-20. DEATH REGISTRATION.--
A. A death certificate for each death that occurs in this state, in which cause or manner of death is not subject to investigation by the office of the medical investigator, shall be filed within [five] ten days after the death and prior to final disposition. The death certificate shall be registered by the state registrar if it has been completed and filed in accordance with this section, subject to the exception provided in Section 24-14-24 NMSA 1978; provided that:
(1) if the place of death is unknown but the dead body is found in this state, a death certificate shall be filed with a local registrar within ten days after the occurrence. The place where the body is found shall be shown as the place of death. If the date and time of death is unknown, it shall be [approximated] recorded as the date and time of the pronouncement by the [state] office of the medical investigator; and
(2) if death occurs in a moving conveyance in the United States and the body is first removed from the conveyance in this state, the death shall be registered in this state and the place where the body is first removed shall be considered the place of death. When a death occurs on a moving conveyance while in international waters or air space or in a foreign country or its air space and the body is first removed from the conveyance in this state, the death shall be registered in this state, but the certificate shall show the actual place of death insofar as can be determined by the [state] office of the medical investigator.
B. The funeral service practitioner or person acting as a funeral service practitioner who first assumes custody of a dead body shall:
(1) file the death certificate;
(2) obtain the personal data from the next of kin or the best qualified person or source available; and
(3) obtain the medical certification of cause of death.
C. The medical certification shall be completed and signed within [forty-eight hours] ten days after death by the physician or nurse practitioner in charge of the patient's care for the illness or condition that resulted in death, except when inquiry is required by law. Except as provided in Subsection D of this section, in the absence of the physician or nurse practitioner, or with the physician's or the nurse practitioner's approval, the medical certification may be completed and signed by the physician's associate physician or the nurse practitioner's associate nurse practitioner, the chief medical officer of the institution in which death occurred or the physician who performed an autopsy on the [decedent] deceased; provided that the individual has access to the medical history of the case and views the deceased at or after death and that death is due to natural causes. A viewing after death by an investigator from the office of the medical investigator may substitute for a viewing by the physician.
D. Unless there is reasonable cause to believe that the death is not due to natural causes, a registered nurse employed by a nursing home may pronounce the death of a resident of the nursing home and a registered nurse employed by a hospital may pronounce the death of a patient of the hospital. The nurse shall have access to the medical history of the case and view the deceased at or after death, and the individual who completes the medical certification shall not be required to view the deceased at or after death. The death shall be pronounced pursuant to procedures or facility protocols prescribed by the hospital for patients or by the physician who is the medical director of the nursing home for residents. The procedures or facility protocols shall ensure that the medical certification of death is completed in accordance with the provisions of Subsection C of this section.
E. Unless there is reasonable cause to believe that the death is not due to natural causes, a deputy medical investigator designate employed by an outpatient hospice program, trained and certified by the office of the medical investigator, may pronounce the death of a hospice patient. The deputy medical investigator designate shall have access to the medical history of the deceased's case and view the deceased at or after death, and the individual who completes the medical certification shall not be required to view the deceased at or after death. The death shall be pronounced pursuant to procedures established by the office of the medical investigator. The hospice protocols shall ensure that the medical certification of death is completed in accordance with the provisions of Subsection C of this section.
[E.] F. For purposes of this section:
(1) "hospital" means a public hospital, profit or nonprofit private hospital or a general or special hospital that is licensed as a hospital by the department of health;
(2) "nurse practitioner" means a registered nurse who is licensed by the board of nursing for advanced practice as a certified nurse practitioner and whose name and pertinent information are entered on the list of certified nurse practitioners maintained by the board of nursing; and
(3) "nursing home" means any nursing institution or facility required to be licensed under state law as a nursing facility by the public health division of the department of health, whether proprietary or nonprofit, including a skilled nursing [home facilities] facility.
[F. When death occurs without medical attendance as set forth in Subsection C or D of this section or when death occurs more than ten days after the decedent was last treated by a physician, the case shall be referred to the state medical investigator for investigation to determine and certify the cause of death.]
G. An amended death certificate based on an anatomical observation shall be filed within thirty days of the completion of an autopsy report."
SECTION 21. Section 24-14-23 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1961, Chapter 44, Section 21, as amended) is amended to read:
"24-14-23. PERMITS--AUTHORIZATION FOR FINAL DISPOSITION.--
A. For deaths or spontaneous fetal deaths [which] that have occurred in this state, no burial-transit permit shall be required for final disposition of the remains if the disposition occurs in this state and is performed by a funeral service practitioner or direct disposer.
B. A burial-transit permit shall be issued by the state registrar or a local registrar for those bodies [which] that are to be transported out of the state for final disposition or when final disposition is being made by a person other than a funeral service practitioner or direct disposer.
C. A burial-transit permit issued under the law of another state or country [which] that accompanies a [dead] body or fetus brought into this state shall be authority for final disposition of the body or fetus in this state.
D. A permit for disinterment and reinterment shall be required prior to disinterment of a [dead] body or fetus except as authorized by [regulation] rule or otherwise provided by law. The permit shall be issued by the state registrar or [state] the office of the medical investigator to a licensed funeral service practitioner or direct disposer.
E. A permit for cremation of a body shall be required prior to the cremation. The permit shall be issued by the [state] office of the medical investigator to a licensed funeral service practitioner, direct disposer or any other person who makes the arrangements for final disposition. The office of the medical investigator shall establish a fee for this permit. Permit fees shall be paid at the time the permit is requested."
SECTION 22. REPEAL.--
A. Sections 24-11-1 through 24-11-9 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1971, Chapter 112, Sections 1 through 3 and 10, Laws 1961, Chapter 91, Sections 2 and 3, Laws 2003, Chapter 191, Section 2 and Laws 1961, Chapter 91, Sections 4 through 6, as amended) are repealed.
B. Section 66-7-211 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1978, Chapter 35, Section 400, as amended) is repealed.
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