West Virginia Autopsies and when the law requires a death to be investigated.

W.Va. Code 61-12-8 and W.Va. Code R. 64-84-5 require that a person's death be INVESTIGATED but NOT necessarily subjected to an AUTOPSY when:

1) A person dies without the benefit of a treating physician;

2) A person who is apparent good health and is less than (50) years of age, dies suddenly when there is no history or other reliable evidence of serious natural disease so as to be able to reasonably assume death due to natural causes;

3) A person dies when unattended by a physician;

4) A person dies when they are an inmate of a public institution;

5) A person dies from a disease which might constitute a threat to public health;

6) A person dies in any suspicious, unusual or unnatural manner;

7) A person dies under circumstances warranting a criminal investigation per the insistence of the County Prosecuting Attorney; 

8) A person dies while in a public institution;

9) A person dies while in police custody;

10) A person dies during police intervention;

11) A person dies while undergoing court-ordered hospitalization;

12) A person dies, and the death is believed to be in association with receiving public services provided by county, state or federal service agencies;

13) A person dies due to, or in association with, environmental conditions suspected to pose a hazard to public health or safety;

14) A person dies due to or in association with, violence, suspected violence, or by any external cause, regardless of the interval between the injury and death; or

15) A person dies under any suspicious conditions, or in any unusual or unnatural manner.

* In the above circumstances the County Medical Examiner, a Deputy County Medical Examiner, or a County Coroner shall perform a medico-legal death investigation of the deceased under the authority and supervision of the Chief Medical Examiner of the State of West Virginia. However, if such investigation does not cause the County Prosecutor, or the Medical Examiner / Coroner performing the investigation to have further concern, no autopsy is required to be performed upon the deceased. 

Notwithstanding the above, AN AUTOPSY WILL BE PERFORMED upon the deceased when:

1) It is the opinion of the Chief Medical Examiner or County Medical Examiner that from their investigation that it is advisable and in the public interest that an autopsy be performed; or

2) The Prosecuting Attorney or Circuit Judge of the County having criminal jurisdiction in the county of death requests an autopsy of the deceased.   



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