Autopsy bill passes Alaska Legislature
A bill (HB 301) that would make changes to how the state does autopsies in rural Alaska passed both the Alaska House of Representatives and Senate unanimously. It is now at the governor’s office awaiting signature.
In many cases, the remains of a deceased person must be sent to Anchorage for review by the State Medical Examiner in order to establish a cause of death and obtain the death certificate required for legal burial.
A couple of minor changes in law would prevent families from wrestling with funeral homes and have the body sent directly back to them. The changes would also allow the body to stay in the region and have the autopsy done remotely.
In a statement, Bob Herron (D-Bethel) wrote, “On top of staggering loss and major life changes comes the stress of more forms, more requirements, and more confusion in a process that is already difficult to navigate. In many cases, families have unknowingly agreed to the use of expensive funeral homes – and found themselves on the hook for thousands of dollars they do not have but must somehow pay before the funeral homes will allow their loved ones’ remains to return home.”
He continued, “HB 301 would make minor changes to the law guiding the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services’ current autopsy and death certificate issuance process. HB 301 approaches each change with an eye for treating grieving Alaskans with greater compassion, maximizing the use of quality existing resources, and saving the state funds – all while continuing to meet legal obligations and ensuring the ME’s office retains the support and resources it needs to do the job right.”