Senate Bill No. 695
(By Senators Unger, Minard, Hunter and Weeks)
[Introduced March 21, 2005; referred to the Committee
on Health and Human Resources; and then to the Committee on the
A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by
adding thereto a new article, designated §16-42-1, §16-42-2,
§6-42-3 and §16-42-4, all relating to establishing death
review teams for elder abuse deaths and domestic abuse deaths.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended
by adding thereto a new article, designated §
§16-42-3 and §
16-42-4, all to read as follows:
ARTICLE 42. DEATH REVIEW TEAMS.
§16-42-1. Death Review Teams.
(a) Elder Abuse Death Review Teams.
-- Each county may
establish an interagency elder abuse death review team to assist
local agencies in identifying and reviewing suspicious elder abuse
deaths and facilitating communication among people who perform autopsies and the various people and agencies involved in elder
abuse or neglect cases.
Each county may develop a protocol that may be used as a
guideline by people performing autopsies on elder adults to assist
coroners and other people who perform autopsies in the
identification of elder abuse, in the determination of whether
elder abuse or neglect contributed to death or whether elder abuse
or neglect had occurred prior to but was not the actual cause of
death, and in the proper written reporting procedures for elder
abuse or neglect, including the designation of the cause and mode
(b) Domestic Abuse Death Review Teams.
-- There is hereby
created a domestic abuse review team. The Director of Public
Health may promulgate rules, in accordance with section five,
article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code, to implement the
provisions of this article.
§16-42-2. Composition of death review teams.
(a) Elder Abuse Death Review Team.
-- The county elder abuse
death review team may be comprised of, but not limited to, the
(1) Experts in the field of forensic pathology.
(2) Medical personnel with expertise in elder abuse and
(3) Coroners and medical examiners.
(4) District attorneys and city attorneys.
(5) County or local staff including, but not limited to:
(A) Adult protective services staff.
(B) Public administrator, guardian, and conservator staff.
(C) County health department staff who deal with elder health
(D) County counsel.
(6) County and state law enforcement personnel.
(7) Local long-term care ombudsman.
(8) Community care licensing staff and investigators.
(9 Geriatric mental health experts.
(11) Representatives of local agencies that are involved with
oversight of adult protective services and reporting elder abuse or
(12) Local professional associations of people described in
subdivisions (a) to (k), inclusive.
(b) Domestic Abuse Death Review Team
. -- The domestic abuse
death review team may be comprised of, but not limited to, the
(1) The state medical examiner or the state medical examiners
(2) A licensed physician who is knowledgeable concerning
domestic abuse injuries and deaths, including suicides.
(3) A licensed mental health professional who is knowledgeable
concerning domestic abuse.
(4) A representative or designee of the state coalition
against domestic violence.
(5) A certified or licensed professional who is knowledgeable
concerning substance abuse.
(6) A law-enforcement official who is knowledgeable concerning
(7) A law-enforcement investigator experienced in domestic
(8) An attorney experienced in prosecuting domestic abuse
(9) A judicial officer appointed by the chief justice of the
(10) A clerk of the district court appointed by the chief
justice of the supreme court.
(11) An employee or subcontractor of the department of
corrections who is a trained batterers' education program
(l2) An attorney licensed in this state who provides criminal
defense assistance or child custody representation, and who has
experience in dissolution of marriage proceedings.
(13) Both a female and a male victim of domestic abuse.
(14) A family member of a decedent whose death resulted from domestic abuse.
(c) The following people shall each designate a liaison to
assist the team in fulfilling the team's duties:
(1) The Attorney General.
(2) The Director of the Department of Corrections.
(3) The Director of Public Health.
(4) The Director of Human Services.
(5) The Commissioner of Public Safety.
(6) The Administrator of the Bureau of Vital Records of the
Department of Public Health.
(7) The Director of the Department of Education.
(8) The state court administrator.
(9) The Director of the Department of Human Rights.
(d) (1) The Director of Public Health, in consultation with
the Attorney General, shall appoint review team members who are not
designated by another appointing authority.
(2) A membership vacancy shall be filled in the same manner as
the original appointment.
(3) A member of the team may be reappointed to serve
additional terms on the team.
(e) Membership terms shall be three year staggered terms.
(f) Members of the team are eligible for reimbursement of
actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their
(g) Team members and their agents are immune from any
liability, civil or criminal, which might otherwise be incurred or
imposed as a result of any act, omission, proceeding, decision or
determination undertaken or performed, or recommendation made as a
team member or agent provided that the team members or agents acted
reasonably and in good faith and without malice in carrying out
their official duties in their official capacity. A complainant
bears the burden of proof in establishing malice or
unreasonableness or lack of good faith in an action brought against
team members involving the performance of their duties and powers.
§16-42-3. Domestic abuse death review team powers and duties.
The review team shall perform the following duties:
(a) Prepare an annual report for the Governor, Supreme Court,
Attorney General, and the general assembly concerning the following
(1) The causes and manner of domestic abuse deaths, including
an analysis of factual information obtained through review of
domestic death certificates and domestic abuse death data,
including patient records and other pertinent confidential and
public information concerning domestic abuse deaths.
(2) The contributing factors of domestic abuse deaths.
(3) Recommendations regarding the prevention of future
domestic abuse deaths, including actions to be taken by
communities, based on an analysis of these contributing factors.
(b) Advise and consult the agencies represented on the team
and other state agencies regarding program and regulatory changes
that may prevent domestic abuse deaths.
(c) Develop protocols for domestic abuse death investigations
and team review.
(2) In performing duties pursuant to subsection 1, the review
team shall review the relationship between the decedent victim and
the alleged perpetrator from the point where the abuse allegedly
began, until the domestic abuse death occurred, and shall review
all relevant documents pertaining to the relationship between the
parties, including but not limited to protective orders and
dissolution, custody and support agreements and related court
records, in order to ascertain whether a correlation exists between
certain events in the relationship and any escalation of abuse, and
whether patterns can be established regarding such events in
relation to domestic abuse deaths in general. The review team
shall consider such conclusions in making recommendations pursuant
to this article.
(3) The team shall meet upon the call of the chairperson, upon
the request of a state agency, or as determined by a majority of
(4) The team shall annually elect a chairperson and other
officers as considered necessary by the team.
(5) The team may establish committees or panels to whom the team may assign some or all of the team's responsibilities.
(6) Members of the team who are currently practicing attorneys
or current employees of the judicial branch of state government
shall not participate in the following:
(a) An investigation by the team that involves a case in which
the team member is presently involved in the member's professional
(b) Development of protocols by the team for domestic abuse
death investigations and team review.
(c) Development of regulatory changes related to domestic
§16-42-4. Confidentiality of documents.
(a) Each organization represented on a death review team may
share with other members of the team information in its possession
concerning the decedent who is the subject of the review or any
person who was in contact with the decedent and any other
information considered by the organization to be pertinent to the
review. Any information shared by an organization with other
members of a team is confidential. The intent of this subdivision
is to permit the disclosure to members of the team of any
information deemed confidential, privileged or prohibited from
disclosure by any other provision of law.
(b) (1) Written and oral information may be disclosed to a
death review team established pursuant to this section. The team may make a request in writing for the information sought and any
person with information of the kind described in paragraph (3) may
rely on the request in determining whether information may be
disclosed to the team.
(2) No individual or agency that has information governed by
this subdivision shall be required to disclose information. The
intent of this subdivision is to allow the voluntary disclosure of
information by the individual or agency that has the information.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to
establish death review
teams for elder abuse deaths and domestic abuse deaths.
This article is new; therefore, strike-throughs and
underscoring have been omitted.