Senator Rodríguez passes El Paso County Medical Examiner bill out of Senate

AUSTIN, April 15, 2013 — Today, the Texas Senate passed SB 336 by Senator José Rodríguez. The bill, which will make it easier for El Paso County to hire a sorely needed medical examiner, now moves to the Texas House.

“Despite an extensive, almost three-year search, El Paso County has had a difficult time filling its Chief Medical Examiner position,” Rodríguez said. “This position is needed because of the critical services the examiner provides, including autopsies and trial testimony.

“Filling it is also important because of the fiscal impact on the county. The county currently has an expert on a contract that is far more costly to taxpayers than hiring for the position.”

The search to fill this position has been difficult because there is a national shortage of medical examiners. According to a 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences, it was estimated that fewer than 500 physicians nationwide practice forensic pathology full-time. It consists of specialized work, long hours, and the heavy pressure of being a courtroom witness.

Currently, to be appointed as a medical examiner in Texas, one must be a physician licensed by the Texas Medical Board. However, it is unclear if a provisional license suffices. SB 336 clarifies that a county can appoint a medical examiner with a provisional license granted by the Texas Medical Board under Section 155.101 of the Occupations Code, if the person:
o is licensed and in good standing as a physician in another state, and
o has applied to the Texas Medical Board for a license to practice medicine in Texas.

As soon as the new appointee receives the provisional license, he or she would be able to perform autopsies and other non-administrative aspects of medical examiner position. This would enable the new appointee to begin this work immediately rather than having to wait until the license application is fully processed (average of three months).


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