Alaska House votes to broaden membership of injury, death review panels

Justin Ruffridge
Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, speaks Monday, May 8, 2023, on the floor of the Alaska House. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

A bill that passed the Alaska House of Representatives on Monday would relax the membership standards for committees that conduct official reviews of Alaskans’ causes of death or injury.

Medical experts told lawmakers that current state law keeps people like poison control specialists from serving on what are known as review committees. These committees are started by hospitals and other health care providers or the groups that accredit these providers, as well as by the state government. 

The House voted 33-7 to approve House Bill 371, sponsored by Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, which now goes to the Senate for consideration. Current state law includes a strict list of who may sit on those committees; HB 371 replaces that list with the statement that members must be health care providers. 

The bill also says that the state’s chief medical officer — rather than the state medical board — has the power to create review committees on behalf of the state. It also removes a requirement that at least 75% of state committee members be health care providers.

Alaska currently has committees examining maternal and child mortality, overdose deaths, and cases where a child was born with syphilis. 

HB 371 clarifies that committee recommendations and data can be made public, to the extent that it does not violate federal or state privacy laws.

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and X.

Previous articleWhat we know and don’t know about Baltimore’s Key Bridge collapse
Next articleBody of woman lost under Eagle River ice in December found