Austin, TX (KDBC) — Friday, the Texas House passed SB 336, authored by state Sen. José Rodríguez and sponsored by state Rep. Joe Moody. The bill was on the El Paso County legislative agenda.
"Despite an extensive, almost three-year search, El Paso County has had a difficult time filling its Chief Medical Examiner position," Rodríguez said. "The medical examiner provides critical services, including autopsies and trial testimony. In addition, being able to fill this position quickly will save the county funds that could be used elsewhere; the county currently has an expert on a contract, which is more costly to taxpayers than hiring someone on a permanent basis."
Moody, a former El Paso County prosecutor, stressed the significance of the position.
"The medical examiner has a tremendous role in the investigation of the most serious cases in our criminal justice system,” he said. “El Paso deserves a full-time medical examiner who has the qualifications and character our courts and community can trust. Our bill makes the search for the right person much easier."
Rodriguez says the search to fill the El Paso County Medical Examiner position has been difficult because of a national shortage of qualified applicants. A 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences estimated that fewer than 500 physicians nationwide practice forensic pathology full-time. The job involves highly specialized work, long hours, and the heavy pressure of being a courtroom witness.
The Senator adds, currently, to be appointed as a medical examiner in Texas, one must be a physician licensed by the Texas Medical Board. 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:
• is licensed and in good standing as a physician in another state, and
• has applied to the Texas Medical Board for a license to practice medicine in Texas.