Pathologists now must be certified

Gov. Haley Barbour signed a bill into law Thursday that requires doctors performing autopsies in Mississippi to be certified by the American Board of Pathology.

The Department of Public Safety backed House Bill 1456, which would grant exceptions to the requirement when a certified forensic pathologist is not available within a reasonable time.

A natural disaster would be an example.

Barbour said the new requirement should help prosecutors.

“This level of certification is not overly burdensome, but it enhances the credibility of work performed,” Barbour said.

“When a physician who has this certification takes the stand in a court case, it strengthens his testimony.”

Attorney General Jim Hood opposed the bill and sent an e-mail, which the Sun Herald obtained, to coroners and others saying it could affect cases involving former state medical examiner Stephen Hayne, who lacks the certification.

Hood said some coroners say Hayne, who was handling a majority of the state’s autopsies until 2008, was more responsive to their needs than the private firm that had been handling the work since Hayne was dismissed.

Public Safety Commissioner Stephen B. Simpson said Hayne was dismissed because he lacked certification, something Simpson called the “gold standard.”

Simpson said many law enforcement officials and coroners he talked to supported the ABP certification, which he said most states require.

Since the bill passed, Bruce Levy, one of six doctors performing autopsies for the state, was arrested with marijuana at a Madison County hotel.

Simpson said the state terminated its contract with Levy and is seeking to replace him.

Also in discussions is the future of the other five doctors working for the state.


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