Senate Bill 826 (SB 826), which became effective on September 1, 2003, was designed to promote the timely reporting of certain deaths to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). The OAG will receive reports of deaths of individuals under the care, custody, or control of or residing in nursing and long-term care facilities, intermediate care facilities for the mentally retarded (ICMFRs), assisted living facilities (ALFs), and any other place where health care services are rendered.
What must be reported?
Current law states that "If a person dies in a hospital or other institution and an attending physician is unable to certify the cause of death, the superintendent or general manager of the hospital or institution shall report the death to the Justice of the Peace of the precinct where the hospital or institution is located." (Article 49.04, Section C , Texas Code of Criminal Procedure). Senate Bill 826, which affects two articles of the code of criminal procedure (49.24 and 49.25) and one section of the penal code (38.19), is a means of having the same information from Article 49.04, plus an investigative report conducted by the facility, communicated to the OAG. This will allow for a faster investigative response on the part of the Office of the Attorney General. More simply put, information which superintendents and general managers have been required to transmit to Justices of the Peace on certain deaths, must now also go to the OAG. Senate Bill 1469, effective June 17, 2005, subsequently eliminated the requirement for hospitals to report applicable deaths to the Office of the Attorney General.
Below are the instances when superintendents and general managers of facilities which report to Justices of the Peace must report deaths to the OAG pursuant to Article 49.04, Code of Criminal Procedure:
Instances To Report
- if the person dies an unnatural death from a cause other than a legal execution;
- if the person dies in prison under circumstances other than those described by Section 501.055(b), Government Code, or in jail;
- if the body of the person is found and the cause or circumstances of death are unknown; whether the body is identified or not;
- if the circumstances of the death indicate the death may have been caused by unlawful means;
- if the person commits suicide or the circumstances of death indicate that the death may have been by suicide;
- if the person dies without having been attended by a physician;
- if the person dies in a hospital or other institution and an attending physician is unable to certify the cause of death; or
- if the person is a child younger than six years of age and an inquest is required by Chapter 264, Family Code.
If a death occurs in a facility pursuant to Art. 49.04 and an attending physician is able to certify the cause of death, there is not a requirement that the facility report the death to the Justice of the Peace and consequently to the Office of the Attorney General; nor must they conduct and submit a report containing facts relevant to the death.
Superintendents and general managers do not have to report every death that occurs in their facilities to the OAG.
Article 49.25 of the Code of Criminal Procedure was amended to include the words, "or general manager" so that the terms "superintendent or general manager are used consistently in both article 49.24 and 49.25. The new subsection "c" of Article 49.25 requires that superintendents/general managers report to the Office of the Attorney General, any deaths (and must also submit a report with facts of the death) in instances in which the death is reportable under Section 6 (a) of Article 49.25, Code of Criminal Procedure, entitled "Death Investigations."
The following are the instances in which superintendents and general managers of facilities which report to Medical Examiners must report deaths in their facilities to the OAG pursuant to Article 49.25, Code of Criminal Procedure;
Instances To Report
- when a person dies within 24 hours after admission to an institution or in prison or in jail;
- when a person is killed, or from any cause, dies an unnatural death, except under sentence of the law, or dies in the absence of one or more good witnesses;
- when the body of a person is found, the cause or circumstances of death are unknown, whether the body is identified or not;
- when the circumstances of the death of any person are such as to lead to suspicion that he/she came to his/her death by unlawful means;
- when the person commits suicide, or the circumstances of his/her death are such as to lead to suspicion that he/she committed suicide;
- when a person dies without having been attended by a duly licensed and practicing physician, and the local health officer or registrar required to report the cause of death under section 193.005, Health and Safety Code, does not know the cause of death;
- when the person is a child who is younger than six years of age and the death is reported under Chapter 264, Family Code; and
- when a person dies who has been attended immediately preceding his/her death by a duly licensed and practicing physician or physicians, and such physician or physicians are not certain as to the cause of death and are unable to certify with certainty the cause of death as required by section 193.004, Health and Safety Code.
An "attending physician" is defined by the Texas Administrative Code (Title 40, Part 1, Chapter 19, Sub-chapter B, Section 19.101) as, "A physician, currently licensed by the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners, who is designated by the resident or responsible party as having primary responsibility for the treatment and care of the resident." Often, a facility resident will designate the facility's medical director as their attending physician. In other instances the patient will designate their own personal physician as their "attending physician."
Method of Reporting
SB 826, by creating a new Article 49.24, Code of Criminal Procedure, mandates that notification of such a person's death must be made to the OAG within 24 hours of the person's death. Furthermore, it mandates that the facility prepare and submit to the office of the Attorney General, a report containing all facts relevant to the individual's death within 72 hours of the death. Procedures are in place to have affected facilities report the required information by fax or email.
Penalty for Failing to Report
The Texas Penal Code, Section 38.19, has been amended with the passage of SB 826 and now states, "A superintendent or general manager of an institution commits an offense if, as required by article 49.24 or 49.25, Code of Criminal Procedure, the person fails to provide notice of an individual under the care, custody, or control of or residing in the institution, the person fails to submit a report on the death of the individual; or fails to include in the report material facts known or discovered by the person at the time the report was filed." An offense under this section is a Class "B" misdemeanor.
The following forms are meant to assist and ease applicable institutions to comply with the requirements outlined above.
If you are required to report a death, please use the forms below. Please know that you can print and complete the appropriate form below and fax it to MFCU at (512) 320-0974 or scan and email it to [email protected].