§16-5-19. Death registration.
(a) A certificate of death for each death which occurs in this state shall be filed with the section of vital statistics, or as otherwise directed by the state Registrar, within five days after death, and prior to final disposition, and shall be registered if it has been completed and filed in accordance with this section.
(1) If the place of death is unknown, but the dead body is found in this state, the place where the body was found shall be shown as the place of death.
(2) If the date of death is unknown, it shall be approximated. If the date cannot be approximated, the date found shall be shown as the date of death.
(3) If death occurs in a moving conveyance in the United States and the body is first removed from the conveyance in this state, the death shall be registered in this state and the place where it is first removed shall be considered the place of death.
(4) If death occurs in a moving conveyance while in international waters or air space or in a foreign country or its air space and the body is first removed from the conveyance in this state, the death shall be registered in this state but the certificate shall show the actual place of death insofar as can be determined.
(5) In all other cases, the place where death is pronounced shall be considered the place where death occurred.
(b) The funeral director or other person who assumes custody of the dead body shall:
(1) Obtain the personal data from the next of kin or the best qualified person or source available including the deceased person's social security number or numbers, which shall be placed in the records relating to the death and recorded on the certificate of death;
(2) Within forty-eight hours after death, provide the certificate of death containing sufficient information to identify the decedent to the physician nurse responsible for completing the medical certification as provided in subsection (c) of this section; and
(3) Upon receipt of the medical certification, file the certificate of death: Provided, That for implementation of electronic filing of death certificates, the person who certifies to cause of death will be responsible for filing the electronic certification of cause of death as directed by the state Registrar and in accordance with legislative rule.
(c) The medical certification shall be completed and signed within twenty-four hours after receipt of the certificate of death by the physician or advanced practice registered nurse in charge of the patient's care for the illness or condition which resulted in death except when inquiry is required pursuant to chapter sixty-one, article twelve or other applicable provisions of this code.
(1) In the absence of the physician or advanced practice registered nurse or with his or her approval, the certificate may be completed by his or her associate physician, any physician who has been placed in a position of responsibility for any medical coverage of the decedent, the chief medical officer of the institution in which death occurred, or the physician who performed an autopsy upon the decedent, provided inquiry is not required pursuant to chapter sixty-one, article twelve of this code.
(2) The person completing the cause of death shall attest to its accuracy either by signature or by an approved electronic process.
(d) When inquiry is required pursuant to article twelve, chapter sixty one, or other applicable provisions of this code, the state Medical Examiner or designee or county medical examiner or county coroner in the jurisdiction where the death occurred or where the body was found shall determine the cause of death and shall complete the medical certification within forty-eight hours after taking charge of the case.
(1) If the cause of death cannot be determined within forty-eight hours after taking charge of the case, the medical examiner shall complete the medical certification with a "Pending" cause of death to be amended upon completion of medical investigation.
(2) After investigation of a report of death for which inquiry is required, if the state Medical Examiner or designee or county medical examiner or county coroner decline jurisdiction, the state Medical Examiner or designee or county medical examiner or county coroner may direct the decedent's family physician or the physician who pronounces death to complete the certification of death: Provided, That the physician is not civilly liable for inaccuracy or other incorrect statement of death unless the physician willfully and knowingly provides information he or she knows to be false.
(e) When death occurs in an institution and the person responsible for the completion of the medical certification is not available to pronounce death, another physician may pronounce death. If there is no physician available to pronounce death, then a designated licensed health professional who views the body may pronounce death, attest to the pronouncement by signature or an approved electronic process and, with the permission of the person responsible for the medical certification, release the body to the funeral director or other person for final disposition: Provided, That if the death occurs in an institution during court-ordered hospitalization, in a correctional facility or under custody of law-enforcement authorities, the death shall be reported directly to a medical examiner or coroner for investigation, pronouncement and certification.
(f) If the cause of death cannot be determined within the time prescribed, the medical certification shall be completed as provided by legislative rule. The attending physician or medical examiner, upon request, shall give the funeral director or other person assuming custody of the body notice of the reason for the delay, and final disposition of the body may not be made until authorized by the attending physician, medical examiner or other persons authorized by this article to certify the cause of death.
(g) Upon receipt of autopsy results, additional scientific study, or where further inquiry or investigation provides additional information that would change the information on the certificate of death from that originally reported, the certifier, or any State Medical Examiner who provides such inquiry under authority of article twelve, chapter sixty-one of this code shall immediately file a supplemental report of cause of death or other information with the section of vital statistics to amend the record, but only for purposes of accuracy.
(h) When death is presumed to have occurred within this state but the body cannot be located, a certificate of death may be prepared by the state Registrar only upon receipt of an order of a court of competent jurisdiction which shall include the finding of facts required to complete the certificate of death. The certificate of death will be marked "Presumptive" and will show on its face the date of death as determined by the court and the date of registration, and shall identify the court and the date of the order.
(i) The local registrar shall transmit each month to the county clerk of his or her county a copy of the certificates of all deaths occurring in the county, and if any person dies in a county other than the county within the state in which the person last resided prior to death, then the state Registrar shall furnish a copy of the death certificate to the clerk of the county commission of the county where the person last resided, from which copies the clerk shall compile a register of deaths, in a form prescribed by the state Registrar. The register shall be a public record.Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2016 Regular Session