Acts, 1986 Reg. Sess., Ch. 153.
Acts, 1986 Reg. Sess., Ch. 153.
(b) All persons employed by the chief medical examiner shall be responsible to him or her and may be discharged for any reasonable cause. The chief medical examiner shall specify the qualifications required for each position in the office of chief medical examiner, and each position shall be subject to rules prescribed by the secretary of the department of health and human resources.
(c) The chief medical examiner shall be a physician licensed to practice medicine or osteopathic medicine in the state of West Virginia, who is a diplomat of the American board of pathology in forensic pathology, and who has experience in forensic medicine. The chief medical examiner shall be appointed by the director of the division of health to serve a five-year term unless sooner removed, but only for cause, by the governor or by the director.
(d) The chief medical examiner shall be responsible to the director of the division of health in all matters except that the chief medical examiner shall operate with independent authority for the purposes of:
(1) The performance of death investigations conducted pursuant to section eight of this article;
(2) The establishment of cause and manner of death; and
(3) The formulation of conclusions, opinions or testimony in judicial proceedings.
(e) The chief medical examiner, or his or her designee, shall be available at all times for consultation as necessary for carrying out the functions of the office of the chief medical examiner.
(f) The secretary of the department of health and human resources is hereby directed to propose legislative rules in accordance with the provisions of article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code concerning:
(1) The proper conduct of medical examinations into the cause of death;
(2) The proper methods and procedures for postmortem inquiries conducted by county medical examiners and coroners;
(3) The examination of substances taken from human remains in order to determine the cause and manner of death; and
(4) The training and certification of county medical examiners and coroners.
(g) The chief medical examiner is authorized to prescribe specific forms for record books and official papers which are necessary to the functions and responsibilities of the office of the chief medical examiner.
(h) The chief medical examiner, or his or her designee, is authorized to order and conduct an autopsy in accordance with the provisions of this article and this code. The chief medical examiner, or his or her designee, shall perform an autopsy upon the lawful request of any person authorized by the provisions of this code to request the performance of the autopsy.
(i) The salary of the chief medical examiner and the salaries of all assistants and employees of the office of the chief medical examiner shall be fixed by the Legislature from funds appropriated for that purpose. The chief medical examiner shall take an oath and provide a bond as required by law. Within the discretion of the director of the division of health, the chief medical examiner and his or her assistants shall lecture or instruct in the field of legal medicine and other related subjects to the West Virginia university or Marshall university school of medicine, the West Virginia school of osteopathic medicine, the West Virginia state police, other law-enforcement agencies and other interested groups.
(b) A county medical examiner or his or her assistant county medical examiner shall, at all times, be available to perform the duties required under this article. He or she shall, additionally, be paid a fee, as determined by the chief medical examiner, but only for the actual performance of his or her duties.
(c) County medical examiners and assistant county medical examiners are authorized to determine the cause and manner of death in any case falling within the provisions of section eight of this article, subject to the supervision of the chief medical examiner, and may exercise any of the powers attendant to the investigation of deaths.
(b) A county medical examiner, or his or her assistant, shall make inquiries regarding the cause and manner of death, reduce his or her findings to writing, and promptly make a full report thereof to the chief medical examiner on forms prescribed by the chief medical examiner, retaining one copy of the report for his or her own office records and providing one copy to the prosecuting attorney of the county in which the death occurred.
(c) A county medical examiner or assistant medical examiner shall receive a fee for each investigation performed under the provisions of this article, including the making of required reports, which fee shall be determined by the chief medical examiner and paid out of funds appropriated therefor.
(a) It is the duty of any person cremating, or causing or requesting the cremation of, the body of any dead person who died in this state, to secure a permit for the cremation from the Chief Medical Examiner, the county medical examiner or county coroner of the county wherein the death occurred. Any person who willfully fails to secure a permit for a cremation, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than $200. A permit for cremation shall be acted upon by the Chief Medical Examiner, the county medical examiner or the county coroner after review of the circumstances surrounding the death, as indicated by the death certificate. The person requesting issuance of a permit for cremation shall pay a reasonable fee, as determined by the Chief Medical Examiner, to the county medical examiner or coroner or to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, as appropriate, for issuance of the permit.
(b) Any person operating a crematory who does not perform a cremation pursuant to the terms of a cremation contract, or pursuant to the order of a court of competent jurisdiction, within the time contractually agreed upon, or, if the cremation contract does not specify a time period, within twenty-one days of receipt of the deceased person's remains by the crematory, whichever time is less, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
(c) Any person operating a crematory who fails to deliver the cremated remains of a deceased person, pursuant to the terms of a cremation contract, or pursuant to the order of a court of competent jurisdiction, within the time contractually agreed upon, or, if the cremation contract does not specify a time period, within thirty-five days of receipt of the deceased person's remains by the crematory, whichever time is less, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
(d) Any person convicted of a violation of the provisions of subsection (b) or (c) of this section shall be fined not less than $1,000 nor more than $5,000 or confined in jail for a period not to exceed six months, or both.
(e) In any criminal proceeding alleging that a person violated the time requirements of this section, it is a defense to the charge that a delay beyond the time periods provided for in this section were caused by circumstances wholly outside the control of the defendant.
(f) For purposes of this section, "cremation contract" means an agreement to perform a cremation, as a "cremation" is defined in subsection (g), section three, article six, chapter thirty of this code. A cremation contract is an agreement between a crematory and any authorized person or entity, including, but not limited to, the following persons in order of precedence:
(1) The deceased, who has expressed his or her wishes regarding the disposal of their remains through a last will and testament, an advance directive or preneed funeral contract, as defined in section two, article fourteen, chapter forty-five of this code;
(2) The surviving spouse of the deceased, unless a petition to dissolve the marriage was pending at the time of decedent's death;
(3) An individual previously designated by the deceased as the person with the right to control disposition of the deceased's remains in a writing signed and notarized by the deceased: Provided, That no person may be designated to serve in such capacity for more than one nonrelative at any one time;
(4) The deceased person's next of kin;
(5) A public official charged with arranging the final disposition of an indigent deceased person or an unclaimed corpse;
(6) A representative of an institution who is charged with arranging the final disposition of a deceased who donated his or her body to science;
(7) A public officer required by statute to arrange the final disposition of a deceased person;
(8) Another funeral establishment; or
(a) If in the opinion of the chief medical examiner, or of the county medical examiner of the county in which the death in question occurred, it is advisable and in the public interest that an autopsy be made, or if an autopsy is requested by either the prosecuting attorney or the judge of the circuit court or other court of record having criminal jurisdiction in that county, an autopsy shall be conducted by the chief medical examiner or his or her designee, by a member of his or her staff, or by a competent pathologist designated and employed by the chief medical examiner under the provisions of this article. For this purpose, the chief medical examiner may employ any county medical examiner who is a pathologist who holds board certification or board eligibility in forensic pathology or has completed an American Board of Pathology fellowship in forensic pathology to make the autopsies, and the fees to be paid for autopsies under this section shall be in addition to the fee provided for investigations pursuant to section eight of this article. A full record and report of the findings developed by the autopsy shall be filed with the office of the chief medical examiner by the person making the autopsy.
(b) Within the discretion of the chief medical examiner, or of the person making the autopsy, or if requested by the prosecuting attorney of the county, or of the county where any injury contributing to or causing the death was sustained, a copy of the report of the autopsy shall be furnished to the prosecuting attorney.
(c) The office of the chief medical examiner shall keep full, complete and properly indexed records of all deaths investigated, containing all relevant information concerning the death and the autopsy report if an autopsy report is made. Any prosecuting attorney or law-enforcement officer may secure copies of these records or information necessary for the performance of his or her official duties.
(d) Copies of these records or information shall be furnished, upon request, to any court of law, or to the parties therein to whom the cause of death is a material issue, except where the court determines that interests in a civil matter conflict with the interests in a criminal proceeding, in which case the interests in the criminal proceeding shall take precedence. The office of chief medical examiner shall be reimbursed a reasonable rate by the requesting party for costs incurred in the production of records under this subsection and subsection (c) of this section.
(e) The chief medical examiner is authorized to release investigation records and autopsy reports to the multidisciplinary team authorized by section three, article five-d, chapter forty-nine of this code and as authorized in subsection (h) of this section. At the direction of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources the chief medical examiner may release records and information to other state agencies when considered to be in the public interest.
(f) Any person performing an autopsy under this section is empowered to keep and retain, for and on behalf of the chief medical examiner, any tissue from the body upon which the autopsy was performed which may be necessary for further study or consideration.
(g) In cases of the death of any infant in the State of West Virginia where sudden infant death syndrome is the suspected cause of death and the chief medical examiner or the medical examiner of the county in which the death in question occurred considers it advisable to perform an autopsy, it is the duty of the chief medical examiner or the medical examiner of the county in which the death occurred to notify the sudden infant death syndrome program within the division of maternal and child health and to inform the program of all information to be given to the infant's parents.
(h) If the chief medical officer determines that a drug overdose is the cause of death of a person, the chief medical examiner shall provide notice of the death to the West Virginia Controlled Substances Monitoring Program Database Review Committee established pursuant to subsection (b), section five, article nine, chapter sixty-a of this code and shall include in the notice any information relating to the cause of the fatal overdose.
Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2012 1st Special Session