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Email: Chapter 61, Article 12, Section 3

§61-12-3. Office of Chief Medical Examiner established; appointment, duties, etc., of Chief Medical Examiner; assistants and employees; promulgation of rules.

NOTE: West Virginia Code §61-12-3 was amended by two bills passed during the 2022 Regular Session of the Legislature. When two acts of the Legislature amend the same section of the Code without express recognition in the bill of the action of the other bill, the Legislative Manager makes no determination as to the appropriate, legal effect of the two acts. Therefore, BOTH versions of this section are set out below.
The latter act, House Bill 4340 (passed on March 12, 2022), amended West Virginia Code §61-12-3 to read as follows:

(a) The Office of Chief Medical Examiner is continued within the Bureau of Public Health in the Department of Health and Human Resources. The office shall be directed by a Chief Medical Examiner, who may employ pathologists, toxicologists, other forensic specialists, laboratory technicians, and other staff members as needed to fulfill the responsibilities set forth in this article.

(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

(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, or equivalent, and who has experience in forensic medicine. The Chief Medical Examiner shall be appointed by the Commissioner for the Bureau of Public Health to serve a five-year term unless sooner removed, but only for cause, by the Governor or by the commissioner.

(d) The Chief Medical Examiner shall be responsible to the commissioner 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 Chief Medical Examiner shall cooperate with procurement organizations as defined in §16-19-3 of this code to maximize the opportunity to recover anatomical gifts for the purpose of transplantation, therapy, research, or education. The Chief Medical Examiner may enter into contracts and agreements with a procurement organization when necessary to facilitate the efficient and economical recovery of anatomical gifts, including contracts or agreements authorizing persons approved or assigned by the procurement organization to perform a specific type of duty or duties at the office of the chief medical examiner.

 (g) The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources shall propose legislative rules in accordance with the provisions of §29A-3-1 et seq. 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;

(4) The training and certification of county medical examiners and coroners; and

(5) The procedures necessary to maximize the recovery of anatomical gifts for the purpose of transplantation, therapy, research, or education.

(h) The Chief Medical Examiner may 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.

(i) The Chief Medical Examiner, or his or her designee, may order and conduct an autopsy in accordance with the provisions of 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.

(j) 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 as required by law. The Chief Medical Examiner and his or her assistants may 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.

The earlier act, House Bill 4559 (passed on March 11, 2022) amended West Virginia Code §61-12-3 to read as follows:

(a) The Office of Chief Medical Examiner is continued within the Bureau for Public Health in the Department of Health and Human Resources. The office shall be directed by a chief medical examiner, who may employ pathologists, toxicologists, other forensic specialists, laboratory technicians, and other staff members, as needed to fulfill the responsibilities set forth in this article.

(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.

(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, or equivalent, and who has experience in forensic medicine. The chief medical examiner shall be appointed by the Commissioner for the Bureau for Public Health to serve a five-year term unless sooner removed, but only for cause, by the Governor or by the commissioner.

(d) The chief medical examiner shall be responsible to the commissioner 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 shall propose legislative rules in accordance with the provisions of §29-3-1 et seq. 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 may 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, may 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 as required by law. The chief medical examiner and his or her assistants may 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.