Statewide medical examiner bill stalls after committee hears opposition from coroners, county commissioners

    A legislative committee has decided not to move forward with a bill draft that would have provided a statewide medical examiner to conduct autopsies in Wyoming.

    The Wyoming Coroner’s Association expressed opposition to the bill during a meeting of the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee this week, with association vice president and Fremont County Coroner Erin Ivie explaining that the proposal represents a “huge undertaking that is going to cost millions of dollars to the state.”

    Plus, Ivie said, “we have access to these (services) already,” both in neighboring states and in Fremont County, where “we employ our own forensic pathologist” who now covers “most of the cases for the western side of the state.”


    Future concerns

    The current system “does not have an effect on our ability to have timely autopsies,” Ivie said.

    There could be problems in the future, Wyoming County Commissioners Association executive director Jerimiah Rieman said, noting that neighboring states could someday decide to “exclude” Wyoming from access to their forensic pathologists due to capacity issues – but regardless, county commissioners in the state “are not necessarily supportive of this particular legislation.”

    “A lot of people are concerned they’re going to be forced into a system that they’re going to have to fund,” Rieman explained.

    Instead, he said, commissioners have expressed interest in working “hand-in-hand” with the state to further “develop” the medical examiner resources that already exist in Wyoming.


    “Could we build a model that was incentive-based, that would … drive a few counties toward building the appropriate facilities and getting the personnel?” he asked. “That’s what my members are perhaps more interested in, (rather) than the state setting up an apparatus that we’re fearful we’re going to ultimately have to assume and pay the cost of.”

    After the public comment period closed, no one on the committee made a motion to approve the bill proposal, which was set aside.

    Local legislators on the committee include Wyoming Sens. Cale Case, R-Lander, and Ed Cooper, R-Ten Sleep, and Wyoming Rep. Ember Oakley, R-Riverton.


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