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A Bill to Help Recruit Medical Examiners Raises Concerns

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A Bill to Help Recruit Medical Examiners Raises Concerns
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Rep. Angela Cockerham Presenting SB 2161 on the House Floor
Desare Frazier

A Mississippi lawmaker is raising concerns about a Senate bill designed to help recruit more medical examiners to the state.

Mississippi House members are weighing in on Senate Bill 2161. House Democrat Angela Cockerham of Magnolia chairs a judiciary committee. She says the measure clarifies definitions for positions in the state medical examiner's office which is under the department of public safety. Currently there are two medical examiners and some House members complain it can take up to 18 months to get an autopsy report.

"During my discussion I talk about hopefully with this definition clarification, hopefully it will help with recruiting," said Cockerham.

But House Democrat Bob Evans of Monticello, a defense attorney, took issue with the one of the definitions. He says currently autopsies are done by doctors certified by the American Board of Pathology. Evans says the bill would require medical examiners be eligible for certification but they wouldn't have to take the exam to become certified. He says he'd raise that issue in a court case.

"My main concern was that they're diminishing the requirements of the people who do the autopsies. I started to say we may get less accurate autopsies. I won't say may to that. I say we will get less accurate autopsies.

Representative Cockerham urged House members to support the bill.

"I don't think the intent of DPS is to reduce any qualifications, to terminate anyone, if anything the department of public safety is trying to improve standards," said Cockerham.

SB 2161 passed. It will go to governor's office for his consideration.