Senate Bill No. 544
(By Senator Green)
[Introduced February 11, 2010; referred to the Committee on
Government Organization; and then to the Committee on Finance.]
A BILL to amend and reenact §16-5-19 of the Code of West Virginia,
1931, as amended, relating to requiring death certificate to
state the cause of death in a legible fashion with no
abbreviations and preferably be typewritten.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That §16-5-19 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended,
be amended and reenacted to read as follows:
ARTICLE 5. VITAL STATISTICS.
§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
(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 responsible for completing the
medical certification as provided in subsection (c) of this
(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 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 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.
(3) The death certificate shall state the cause of death in a
legible fashion with no abbreviations, and preferably be
(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:
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
(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
(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
(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: The purpose of this bill is to require a death
certificate to state the cause of death in a legible fashion with
no abbreviations and preferably be typewritten.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from
the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would