TO: Virginia Police Chiefs, Sheriffs, Funeral Directors, Hospitals, and Nursing Homes
FROM: Leah Bush, M.D., Chief Medical Examiner
SUBJECT: Body Storage of Natural Death, Non-Medical Examiner Cases
Effective immediately, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) will no longer accept non-medical examiner cases for storage in our district offices. The OCME has no statutory jurisdiction over human remains that are not medical examiner cases; therefore, the OCME cannot accept or take possession of non-medical examiner bodies at medical examiner district facilities.
As a state agency, located in state owned facilities, the OCME cannot legally function as a local city or county morgue. Holding and storage of natural deaths awaiting next of kin notification or a final family disposition decision is not our legislated role. Storage of non ME natural death cases is the responsibility of the locality where the death occurs. Therefore, you must find alternate storage for non ME natural deaths occurring within your locality.
The OCME has no liability protection for storing/holding non-medical examiner natural death cases. The OCME must also be able to respond to the increasing numbers of deaths falling under ME jurisdiction (Virginia Code § 32.1-283) as well as maintain surge capacity for times of increased demand, such as in mass fatality incidents or other disasters.
Please develop alternate plans for the storage of these non ME natural deaths, perhaps by coordinating with your locality's funeral homes and hospitals. If questions arise about whether a death falls under the jurisdiction of the OCME, you may call the district office for confirmation of medical examiner case status. Bodies delivered without the prior authorization of the district office will be turned away. If you have storage needs related to a medical examiner case, please call your OCME district office for any discussion concerning the storage of ME cases.
The goal of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is to provide the best medicolegal death investigation services for the citizens of the Commonwealth. Your assistance in meeting this goal is much appreciated.