California Code, Government Code - GOV § 27491.41

(a) For purposes of this section, “sudden infant death syndrome” means the sudden death of any infant that is unexpected by the history of the infant and where a thorough postmortem examination fails to demonstrate an adequate cause of death.

(b) The Legislature finds and declares that sudden infant death syndrome, also referred to as SIDS, is the leading cause of death for children under age one, striking one out of every 500 children.  The Legislature finds and declares that sudden infant death syndrome is a serious problem within the State of California, and that the public interest is served by research and study of sudden infant death syndrome and its potential causes and indications.

(c)(1) To facilitate these purposes, the coroner shall, within 24 hours or as soon thereafter as feasible, cause an autopsy to be performed in any case where an infant has died suddenly and unexpectedly.

(2) However, if the attending licensed physician and surgeon desires to certify that the cause of death is sudden infant death syndrome, an autopsy may be performed at the discretion of the coroner.  If the coroner causes an autopsy to be performed pursuant to this section, he or she shall also certify the cause of death.

(d) The autopsy shall be conducted pursuant to a standardized protocol developed by the State Department of Public Health.  The protocol is exempt from the procedural requirements pertaining to the adoption of administrative rules and regulations pursuant to Article 5 (commencing with Section 11346) of Chapter 3.5 of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code .

(e) The protocol shall be followed by all coroners throughout the state when conducting an evaluation as part of an autopsy required by this section.  The coroner shall state on the certificate of death that sudden infant death syndrome was the cause of death when the coroner's findings are consistent with the definition of sudden infant death syndrome specified in the standardized autopsy protocol.  The protocol may include requirements and standards for scene investigations, requirements for specific data, criteria for ascertaining cause of death based on the autopsy, and criteria for any specific tissue sampling, and any other requirements.  The protocol may also require that specific tissue samples shall be provided to a central tissue repository designated by the State Department of Public Health.

(f) The State Department of Public Health shall establish procedures and protocols for access by researchers to any tissues, or other materials or data authorized by this section.  Research may be conducted by any individual with a valid scientific interest and prior approval from the State Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects.  The tissue samples, the materials, and all data shall be subject to the confidentiality requirements of Section 103850 of the Health and Safety Code .

(g) The coroner may take tissue samples for research purposes from infants who have died suddenly and unexpectedly without consent of the responsible adult if the tissue removal is not likely to result in any visible disfigurement.

(h) A coroner or licensed physician and surgeon shall not be liable for damages in a civil action for any act or omission done in compliance with this section.

(i) Consent of any person is not required before undertaking the autopsy required by this section.


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