BOSTON – On October 22, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) testified before the Joint Committee on Public Health alongside her constituent Sameer Sabir of Arlington, parent advocate Deborah Eappen, and Dr. Robert Sege in favor of legislation that would promote public safety and certainty related to child deaths. Friedman filed the bill on behalf of Mr. Sabir after hearing about the tragic death of his young child and the strain it caused his family.
Currently, an Associate Medical Examiner, who may have very limited experience with pediatric cases, can revise a death determination without any oversight or approval of the Chief Medical Examiner. In Mr. Sabir’s case, the medical examiner who initially determined his child’s cause of death changed the determination years later without proper oversight, causing great distress to Mr. Sabir and his family.
Friedman’s bill, S.1261, would address this issue by requiring the Chief Medical Examiner to review and approve the autopsy report for a child under the age of two in order to determine the cause of death. Changes to the autopsy report would also have to be reviewed and approved by the Chief Medical Examiner.
“Pediatric deaths are different and more complex than adult deaths, and should be reviewed by a medical examiner with considerable experience,” Friedman explained. “Ensuring that the Chief Medical Examiner determines the cause of death will create a more transparent process and bring a sense of certainty and solace to grieving families experiencing an unimaginable loss. This is a commonsense step we must take to help parents like Mr. Sabir cope with the loss of their child, and I look forward to advocating for this important initiative throughout this session.”
“Losing a child is indescribable,” said Mr. Sabir. “This legislation will drive accuracy in findings and equally importantly, accountability in sensitive cases, thus helping to restore the public’s trust in an important institution.”
This bill is intended to recognize the fundamental differences between pediatric forensic pathology and adult forensic pathology. These cases, involving very young children, are complex, sensitive and – fortunately – rare, as they represent fewer than 5 percent of the cases handled by the Medical Examiner’s office. As such, Friedman believes these cases deserve to be reviewed by the Chief Medical Examiner, who has the most experience handling these cases.
In concluding their testimony, the panel of advocates urged the committee to give the bill a favorable report.
To track the progress of the bill, visit https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S1261.