Substitute House Bill No. 5426

Public Act No. 01-122

AN ACT CONCERNING AUTOPSY ARRANGEMENTS AND STANDARDIZED INFORMED AUTOPSY CONSENT.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 19a-286 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) Whenever any person dies and no postmortem examination or autopsy has been ordered pursuant to subsection (b) of section 19a-406, no physician shall conduct or assist in conducting any postmortem examination or autopsy upon the body of such deceased person without first obtaining the consent of whichever one of the following persons, eighteen years of age or older, assumes custody of the body for the purposes of burial: Father, mother, husband, wife, child, guardian, next of kin, friend, a person designated by the deceased person in accordance with section 45a-318 or any person charged by law with the responsibility for burial. If two or more persons assume custody of the body, consent of one of them shall be deemed sufficient. [Any] Prior to January 1, 2002, any such consent may be in writing or may be given by telegram, and any telegram purporting to have been sent by a person authorized to give such consent shall be conclusively presumed to have been sent by such person, or may be given by telephone, provided a record of any such consent by telephone shall be kept by such physician for not less than three years. On and after January 1, 2002, such consent shall be made pursuant to subsection (c) of this section, provided such consent may be communicated in person, by telephone, electronically, by mail or by courier. If the physician who is to conduct or assist in conducting any postmortem examination or autopsy, after due inquiry and diligence, is unable to find any person authorized to give consent as provided for [herein] in this subsection, such postmortem examination or autopsy may be made by such physician without such consent but only after a reasonable time, which shall not be less than twelve hours nor more than forty-eight hours, has elapsed. Any person violating any provision of this subsection or subsection (b) of this section shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars.

(b) Any person authorized to consent to an autopsy under subsection (a) of this section may [require that if an autopsy is performed it be performed by, or attended by, a physician who is not affiliated with the institution where the deceased person died. The physician seeking consent to an autopsy shall inform the person authorized to give consent of the right to request performance or attendance by a nonaffiliated physician. Such information shall be given orally and shall be included in any written consent form] make arrangements for an autopsy to be performed at any institution that routinely performs autopsies by any physician who is qualified to perform autopsies at such institution. The person requesting the autopsy shall be responsible for arranging for the autopsy and any necessary associated services and for the payment of any costs incurred. Information concerning the rights and responsibilities under this subsection shall be contained in the institution's patient bill of rights and shall be included in all written material that describes the institution's autopsy policy. A copy of the institution's patient bill of rights containing such information shall be given to the person who assumes custody of the body of the deceased person prior to the signing of an autopsy consent form by the person who assumes such custody. The institution shall provide such information in writing in a language understood by the person who assumes custody of the body of the deceased person.

(c) Not later than January 1, 2002, the Commissioner of Public Health, in consultation with the Chief Medical Examiner, shall develop minimum requirements for an informed autopsy consent form that: (1) Includes clear information naming the institution and department that will perform the autopsy; (2) provides the family member or other person who assumes custody of the body of the deceased person as provided in subsection (a) of this section with an opportunity to place any restrictions or limitations on the autopsy or to express any concerns that such family member or other person may have; and (3) provides for documented and witnessed consent. Such minimum requirements shall include procedures for the oral communication of the information required by subdivisions (1) to (3), inclusive, of this subsection, including communication by telephone, as provided in subsection (a) of this section, and shall include procedures for the written or telephonic acknowledgement of receipt of an institution's patient bill of rights containing its autopsy policy. Such minimum requirements shall not be deemed to be regulations, as defined in section 4-166.

Approved June 28, 2001