The Vermont Statutes Online

Title 18: Health

Chapter 107: DEATHS, BURIALS, AUTOPSIES

Sub-Chapter 001: General Requirements

18 V.S.A. § 5205. Death certificate when no attending physician; autopsy



§ 5205. Death certificate when no attending physician; autopsy

(a) When a person dies from violence, or suddenly when in apparent good health or when unattended by a physician or a recognized practitioner of a well-established church, or by casualty, or by suicide or as a result of injury or when in jail or prison, or any psychiatric hospital, or in any unusual, unnatural, or suspicious manner, or in circumstances involving a hazard to public health, welfare, or safety, the head of the household, the jailer, or the superintendent of a psychiatric hospital where such death occurred, or the next of kin, or the person discovering the body or any doctor notified of the death, shall immediately notify the medical examiner who resides nearest the town where the death occurred and immediately upon being notified, such medical examiner shall notify the State's Attorney of the county in which the death occurred. The State's Attorney shall thereafter be in charge of the body and shall issue such instructions covering the care or removal of the body as he or she shall deem appropriate until he or she releases same.

(b) The medical examiner and a designated law enforcement officer shall thereupon together immediately make a proper preliminary investigation.

(c) Unless the cause and manner of death is uncertain, such medical examiner shall complete and sign a certificate of death. The medical examiner and the designated law enforcement officer shall each submit a report of investigation to the State's Attorney and the Chief Medical Examiner. If, however, the cause or circumstances of death are uncertain, he or she shall immediately so advise the State's Attorney of the county where the death occurred, and notify the Chief Medical Examiner.

(d) The State's Attorney of each county, with the advice of the Commissioner of Public Safety or his or her designee, the sheriff, and the Chief of Police of any established Police Department, shall prepare a list of law enforcement officers in his county qualified to make an investigation and report. This list shall be made available to the medical officers concerned and such other persons as the State's Attorney deems proper.

(e) If an undertaker or embalmer shall, in the course of his or her employment, find evidence of physical violence on the body or evidence of an unlawful act sufficient to indicate to such a person that death might have been the result of an unlawful act, he or she shall immediately notify the State's Attorney of the county where the body is then located and shall proceed no further with the preparation and embalming process of such body until permitted to do so by the State's Attorney.

(f) The State's Attorney or Chief Medical Examiner, if either deem it necessary and in the interest of public health, welfare and safety, or in furtherance of the administration of the law, may order an autopsy to be performed by the Chief Medical Examiner or under his or her direction. Upon completion of the autopsy, the Chief Medical Examiner shall submit a report to such State's Attorney and the Attorney General and shall complete and sign a certificate of death.

(g) When a person who is committed to the custody of the Department of Corrections or who is under the supervision of the Department of Corrections dies, the Commissioner of Corrections may request to be provided with a copy of any and all reports generated pursuant to subsection (f) of this section. No such request shall be granted where the medical examiner is unable to determine a manner of death or the manner of death is classified as a homicide. In other circumstances, the request shall be granted in the discretion of the Medical Examiner for good cause shown. Reports disclosed pursuant to this subsection shall remain confidential as required by law and shall not be considered to be a public record pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 317. (Amended 1967, No. 254 (Adj. Sess.), §§ 1-3, eff. Feb. 20, 1968; 1969, No. 128, § 2; 1969, No. 265 (Adj. Sess.), § 12; 1971, No. 33, § 7; 1991, No. 191 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. May 19, 1992; 2003, No. 128 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. May 24, 2004; 2003, No. 157 (Adj. Sess.), § 13; 2013, No. 96 (Adj. Sess.), § 99.)