CHAPTER 140

AN ACT TO AMEND CHAPTER 47, TITLE 29, DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO THE BOARD OF POST-MORTEM EXAMINERS AND THE POST OF CHIEF STATE MEDICAL EXAMINER AND TO REPEAL CHAPTER 95, TITLE 9, DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO CORONERS.

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Delaware:

Section 1. Chapter 47, Title 29, Delaware Code, is hereby repealed in its entirety and the following new Chapter 47 is enacted in lieu thereof:

CHAPTER 47. BOARD OF POST-MORTEM EXAMINERS

(NEW)

Sec.

4701. Creation

4702. Composition and President of Board

4703. Appointment of Chief Medical Examiner

4704. Qualifications of Chief Medical Examiner

4705. Compensation of Chief Medical Examiner

4706. Rules and regulations

4707. Appointment of professional and other personnel

4708. Duties of Medical Examiners

4709. Office and equipment

4710. Investigation of deaths

4711. Post-mortem examination; autopsy reports

4712. Power to administer oaths

4713. Records and reports; evidence

4714. Burial of body by State

§ 4701. Creation

There is created a Board of Post-Mortem Examiners for the State of Delaware.

§ 4702. Composition and President of Board

(a) The Board shall consist of the President of the State Board of Health, the Attorney General or a Deputy Attorney General designated by him, the Superintendent of the State Police or a member of the State Police designated by him, a physician resident of each County of this State licensed to practice in the State of Delaware to be appointed by the Governor of this State from a list of physicians submitted by the Council of the Medical Society of Delaware, and an osteopathic physician resident and licensed to practice in the State of Delaware to be appointed by the Governor of this State from a list of physicians submitted by the Delaware State Osteopathic Medical Society. The persons appointed by the Governor shall be confirmed by a majority of the members elected to the Senate.

(b) The original appointments of the physicians, authorized to be appointed by this Act, shall be staggered so that one person shall be appointed for a term of 1 year, one person shall be appointed for a term of 2 years, one person shall be appointed for a term of 3 years and one person shall be appointed for a term of 4 years and thereafter all such persons shall be appointed for a term of 4 years and may be reappointed.

(c) In case of a vacancy on the Board of any person mentioned in (b) above for any reason other than expiration of the term of office, the Governor shall fill such vacancy for the unexpired term, from lists as prescribed in (a) above, by and with the consent of a majority of the members elected to the Senate.

(d) The members of the Board shall serve without compensation except for necessary travel expenses, and the President of the State Board of Health shall act as President of the Board.

§ 4703. Appointment of Chief Medical Examiner

The Board shall appoint a Chief Medical Examiner for a term of 10 years, subject to reappointment, but always subject to removal for cause. The Chief Medical Examiner shall act as the Executive Secretary of the Board.

§ 4704. Qualifications of Chief Medical Examiner

The Chief Medical Examiner shall be a physician licensed to practice in the State of Delaware who shall be a Board certified pathologist and preference shall be given to applicants with training and experience in the field of forensic pathology.

§ 4705. Compensation of Chief Medical Examiner

The Chief Medical Examiner shall be compensated at a rate to be determined by the Board. He shall also be reimbursed for any necessary travel expenses.

§ 4706. Rules and regulations

The Board may adopt and promulgate rules and regulations to carry into effect the provisions of this chapter.

§ 4707. Appointment of professional and other personnel

(a) The Chief Medical Examiner may appoint, with the approval of the Board, two Assistant Medical Examiners who shall be physicians with 2 years or more of training or experience in Pathology; and necessary numbers of Deputy Medical Examiners who shall be practicing physicians; and a Toxicologist who shall have a Ph.D. degree in Toxicology or Pharmacology or a Master degree in Toxicology or Pharmacology with a minimum of 3 years of experience in Analytical Toxicology; at such compensation as shall be determined by the Board. The Chief Medical Examiner may also appoint in accordance with the State Merit System Regulations, other technical, clerical and other personnel as may be necessary for proper administration of his office.

(b) The Chief Medical Examiner may employ, with the approval of the Board, physicians on a contract basis for part-time services, as may be required. All professional, technical and clerical personnel appointed by the Chief Medical Examiner in accordance with the provisions of this section are directly responsible to the Chief Medical Examiner and are subject to removal by him for cause, in accordance with the State Merit System Regulations.

§ 4708. Duties of Medical Examiners

(a) It shall be the duty of the Chief Medical Examiner, the Assistant Medical Examiners and the Deputy Medical Examiners to attend to all the medical and other functions now devolving upon the coroners, deputy coroners, and coroners' physicians in the counties of this State and in the City of Wilmington, and to perform all the duties imposed upon them by the provisions of this chapter.

(b) The Chief Medical Examiner shall at all times be subject to the order and directions of the Board of Post-Morten Examiners.

§ 4709. Office and equipment

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner shall be maintained in a suitable place which shall be designated by the Board. The Board shall provide or arrange for proper and necessary equipment for use of the Medical Examiners.

§ 4710. Investigation of deaths

(a) When any person shall die in this State, as a result of violence, or by suicide, or by casualty if such occurred not longer than one year and one day prior to death, or while under anesthesia, or by abortion or suspected abortion, or by poison or suspicion of poison, or suddenly when in apparent health or when unattended by physician, or in any prison or penal institution, or when in police custody, or from a disease resulting from employment including disease related to injury, or from an undiagnosed cause which may be related to a disease constituting a threat to public health, or in any suspicious or unusual manner, or if there is any unclaimed body, or if anybody is to be cremated, it shall be the duty of the person having knowledge of such death or the person issuing a permit for cremation under the provisions of Section 3162, Title 16, immediately to notify the Chief Medical Examiner, an Assistant Medical Examiner or a Deputy Medical Examiner, as the case may be, who in turn shall notify the Attorney General, of the known facts concerning the time, place, manner and circumstances of such death. Any person who shall willfully neglect or refuse to report such death, or who shall refuse to make available prior medical or other information pertinent to the death investigation, or who without an order from the office of the Chief Medical Examiner, shall willfully touch, remove or disturb the clothing or any article upon or near such body shall be declared guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction be subject to imprisonment for not more than one year or pay a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) or both such fine and imprisonment.

(b) Immediately upon receipt of such notification, the said Medical Examiner shall take charge of the dead body if either he or the Attorney General shall deem it necessary.

(c) Such Medical Examiner shall fully investigate the essential facts concerning the medical causes of death and may take the names and addresses of as many witnesses thereto as may be practicable to obtain and shall reduce such facts as he may deem necessary to writing and file the same in the office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

(d) Such Medical Examiner or his duly authorized investigator, in the absence of the next of kin, shall take possession of the personal property found on the deceased and make an exact inventory thereof on his report. If necessary an attending police officer may take temporary possession of such property in behalf of such Medical Examiner or his authorized investigator.

(e) Such Medical Examiner shall take possession of any object or articles which, in his opinion, may be useful in establishing the identity of the deceased person or the cause of death, and deliver them to the Attorney General. The balance of the personal property of the deceased remaining in the possession of the Medical Examiner shall be released to the next of kin of the deceased, or the persona] representative of the deceased.

§ 4711. Post-mortem examination; autopsy reports

(a) When the cause of death shall have been established within reasonable medical certainty by a Medical Examiner, he shall prepare a written report and file it in the office of the Chief Medical Examiner within 30 days after his investigation of such deaths.

(b) If, however, in the opinion of such Medical Examiner an autopsy is necessary in the public interest or as shall be requested by the Attorney General, the same shall be performed by the Chief Medical Examiner, an Assistant Medical Examiner or by such other competent pathologists as may be designated by the Chief Medical Examiner. No person who authorizes or performs an autopsy pursuant to the provisions of this chapter shall be liable in any civil action for damages.

(c) A detailed report of the findings written during the progress of such autopsy, and related laboratory analysis, and the conclusions drawn therefrom, shall be filed in the office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

§ 4712. Power to administer oaths

The Chief Medical Examiner, the Assistant Medical Examiners and the Deputy Medical Examiners shall in the course of investigation of a death have the power to administer oaths and affirmations, and take affidavits and make examinations as to any matter within the jurisdiction of their respective offices, but the Chief Medical Examiner, Assistant Medical Examiners, and Deputy Medical Examiners, shall not have the power or be required to summon a jury of inquisition.

§ 4713. Records and reports; evidence

(a) It shall be the duty of the Chief Medical Examiner to keep full and complete records in his office, properly indexed, giving the name, if known, of every deceased person investigated, the place where the body was found, the date and the cause of death, and all other available information relating thereto. The original report of Medical Examiners, and the detailed findings of the autopsy and subsequent laboratory examinations, if any, shall be attached to the record of each case.

(b) The Chief Medical Examiner shall deliver to the Attorney General copies of all records relating to every death in which, in the judgment of the investigating Medical Examiner, further investigation may be deemed advisable.

(c) The Attorney General may obtain from the office of the Chief Medical Examiner copies of all records or other information which he may deem necessary.

(d) The records of the office of the Chief Medical Examiner prepared by the Chief Medical Examiner or by anyone under his direction or supervision, or a true copy thereof certified by the Chief Medical Examiner, shall be received as competent evidence in any Court in this State of the matters and facts therein contained.

§ 4714. Burial of body by State

In any case, where it is incumbent on the State or any political subdivision thereof to bury a person found dead, the Chief Medical Examiner shall procure an undertaker to bury the body, who upon presenting a bill to the Treasurer of the State of Delaware, approved by the Chief Medical Examiner, shall be allowed and paid by the State Treasurer, the sum of $100 for the burial of an adult person, and the sum of $75 for the burial of a child.

Section 2. Chapter 95, Title 9, Delaware Code, is hereby repealed in its entirety.

Section 3. The provisions of any act or parts of acts or laws of this State which are inconsistent with this Act are repealed as to such inconsistency.

Section 4. This act shall become effective on July 1, 1970.

Approved June 14, 1969.