An Indiana House proposal to create a statewide medical examiner system was killed Wednesday by its sponsor, who said the issue likely would resurface later in the session.
Rep. David Orentlicher's measure was among several bills proposed by legislators to address problems exposed by the misidentification of two Taylor University students in a deadly van accident last year.
The bill sponsored by Orentlicher, D-Indianapolis, would have created a state medical examiner's office and at least five regional offices to handle autopsies for county coroners. Currently, elected coroners hire forensic pathologists or pay independent contractors to perform the examinations.
Orentlicher amended HB 1503 during a meeting Wednesday of the House Committee on Family, Children and Human Affairs. The changes leave intact another part of the bill that Orentlicher said was his priority . . .
Orentlicher said changes to the coroner system still are needed. He and other lawmakers have cited the Grant County van crash, in which the identities of Laura VanRyn, who died, and Whitney Cerak, who survived, were switched for five weeks. Four other students and employees died in the April 2006 accident. A truck driver accused of causing the crash is awaiting trial.
"We need to move as quickly as makes sense to prevent future tragedies," Orentlicher said. A related bill proposed by Sen. Patricia L. Miller, R-Indianapolis, would revive the state Commission on Forensic Sciences. It would have until Nov. 1 to report back on whether Indiana would benefit from a medical examiner system and propose changes.
Don't you like how lawmakers only mention the misidentification problem in Grant County last year as the reason for coroner reform? That coroner made one mistake compared to a litany of problems which have arisen in the Marion County coroner's office. If the problems which have surfaced this past year are not enough to move Indiana's legislature to do away with a system which allows completely unqualified persons to be elected coroner, then it's hard to imagine what circumstances would move them. A constitutional amendment doing away with the coroner's office and replacing it with a statewide medical examiner system makes so much sense, but lawmakers would rather waste their time amending the state constitution to strip away rights from minority groups they disfavor.