331-801-805 County Medical Examiners - Appointment and Qualifications
331.801 County medical examiner — appointment, qualifications and assistants.
1. A county medical examiner shall be appointed by the board for a two-year term. The term of office shall commence on the first day in January which is not a Sunday or holiday and continue for two years or until a successor is appointed and qualifies as provided in this section. A vacancy shall be filled by the board for the unexpired term.
2. To serve as a county medical examiner a person shall be licensed in this state as a doctor of medicine and surgery, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and surgery, or an osteopathic physician. The medical examiner shall be appointed by the board from lists of two or more names submitted by the medical society and the osteopathic society of the county in which the candidate resides. If names are not submitted by either society, the board may appoint any licensed physician, osteopathic physician and surgeon, or osteopathic physician of the county. If a qualified physician of the county will not serve, the board may appoint a physician from another county. If a county medical examiner is unable to serve in a particular case or for a period of time, the medical examiner shall promptly notify the chairperson of the board who shall designate some other qualified physician to serve temporarily.
3. The board may provide laboratory facilities, deputy medical examiners, and other professional, technical and clerical assistance as required by the county medical examiner in the performance of official duties. However, the requirements shall be subject to prior approval by the state medical examiner.
1. [C62, 66, 71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, §339.1; S81, §331.801(1); 81 Acts, ch 117, §800, 805]
2. [C51, §201, 202; R60, §411, 412; C73, §367, 368; C97, §528, 529; C24, 27, 31, 35, 39, §5217, 5218; C46, 50, 54, 58, §339.21, 339.22; C62, 66, 71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, §339.2; S81, §331.801(2); 81 Acts, ch 117, §800]
3. [S13, §520; C24, 27, 31, 35, 39, §5206; C46, 50, 54, 58, §339.9; C62, 66, §339.8; C71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, §339.3; S81, §331.801(3); 81 Acts, ch 117, §800]
331.802 Deaths — reported and investigated.
1. A person's death which affects the public interest as specified in subsection 3 shall be reported to the county medical examiner or the state medical examiner by the physician in attendance, any law enforcement officer having knowledge of the death, the embalmer, or any other person present. The appropriate medical examiner shall notify the city or state law enforcement agency or sheriff and take charge of the body.
2. a. If a person's death affects the public interest, the county medical examiner shall conduct a preliminary investigation of the cause and manner of death, prepare a written report of the findings, promptly submit the full report to the state medical examiner on forms prescribed for that purpose, and submit a copy of the report to the county attorney.
b. Except as provided in section 218.64 or as otherwise provided by law, for each preliminary investigation and the preparation and submission of the required reports, the county medical examiner shall receive from the county of appointment a fee determined by the board plus the examiner's actual expenses. The fee and expenses paid by the county of appointment shall be reimbursed to the county of appointment by the county of the person's residence. However, if the person's death is caused by a defendant for whom a judgment of conviction and sentence is rendered under section 707.2, 707.3, 707.4, 707.5, or 707.6A, the county of the person's residence may recover from the defendant the fee and expenses.
c. The fee and expenses of the county medical examiner who performs an autopsy or conducts an investigation of a person who dies after being brought into this state for emergency medical treatment by or at the direction of an out-of-state law enforcement officer or public authority shall be paid by the state. A claim for payment shall be filed with the Iowa department of public health. If moneys are not appropriated to the Iowa department of public health for the payment of autopsies under this paragraph, claims for payment shall be forwarded to the state appeal board and, if authorized by the board, shall be paid out of moneys in the general fund of the state not otherwise appropriated.
3. A death affecting the public interest includes, but is not limited to, any of the following:
a. Violent death, including homicidal, suicidal, or accidental death.
b. Death caused by thermal, chemical, electrical, or radiation injury.
c. Death caused by criminal abortion including self-induced, or by sexual abuse.
d. Death related to disease thought to be virulent or contagious which may constitute a public hazard.
e. Death that has occurred unexpectedly or from an unexplained cause.
f. Death of a person confined in a prison, jail, or correctional institution.
g. Death of a person who was prediagnosed as a terminal or bedfast case who did not have a physician in attendance within the preceding thirty days; or death of a person who was admitted to and had received services from a hospice program as defined in section 135J.1, if a physician or registered nurse employed by the program was not in attendance within thirty days preceding death.
h. Death of a person if the body is not claimed by a person authorized to control the deceased person's remains under section 144C.5, or a friend.
i. Death of a person if the identity of the deceased is unknown.
j. Death of a child under the age of two years if death results from an unknown cause or if the circumstances surrounding the death indicate that sudden infant death syndrome may be the cause of death.
k. Death of a person committed or admitted to a state mental health institute, a state resource center, the state training school, or the Iowa juvenile home.
4. The county medical examiner shall conduct the investigation in the manner required by the state medical examiner and shall determine whether the public interest requires an autopsy or other special investigation. However, if the death occurred in the manner specified in subsection 3, paragraph "j", the county medical examiner shall order an autopsy, the expense of which shall be reimbursed by the Iowa department of public health. In determining the need for an autopsy, the county medical examiner may consider the request for an autopsy from a public official or private person, but the state medical examiner or the county attorney of the county where the death occurred may require an autopsy.
5. a. A person making an autopsy shall promptly file a complete record of the findings in the office of the state medical examiner and the county attorney of the county where death occurred and the county attorney of the county where any injury contributing to or causing the death was sustained.
b. A summary of the findings resulting from an autopsy of a child under the age of two years whose death occurred in the manner specified in subsection 3, paragraph "j", shall be transmitted immediately by the physician who performed the autopsy to the county medical examiner. The report shall be forwarded to the parent, guardian, or custodian of the child by the county medical examiner or a designee of the county medical examiner, or through the infant's attending physician. A copy of the autopsy report filed with the county attorney shall be available to the parents, guardian, or custodian upon request.
6. The report of an investigation made by the state medical examiner or a county medical examiner and the record and report of an autopsy made under this section or chapter 691, shall be received as evidence in any court or other proceedings, except that statements by witnesses or other persons and conclusions on extraneous matters included in the report are not admissible. The person preparing a report or record given in evidence may be subpoenaed as a witness in any civil or criminal case by any party to the cause. A copy of a record, photograph, laboratory finding, or record in the office of the state medical examiner or any medical examiner, when attested to by the state medical examiner or a staff member or the medical examiner in whose office the record, photograph, or finding is filed, shall be received as evidence in any court or other proceedings for any purpose for which the original could be received without proof of the official character of the person whose name is signed to it.
7. In case of a sudden, violent, or suspicious death after which the body is buried without an investigation or autopsy, the county medical examiner, upon being advised of the facts, shall notify the county attorney. The county attorney shall apply for a court order requiring the body to be exhumed in accordance with chapter 144. Upon receipt of the court order, an autopsy shall be performed by a medical examiner or by a pathologist designated by the medical examiner and the facts disclosed by the autopsy shall be communicated to the court ordering the disinterment for appropriate action.
8. Where donation of the remains of the deceased to a medical school or similar institution equipped with facilities to perform autopsies is provided by will or directed by the person authorized to control the deceased person's remains under section 144C.5, any autopsy under this section shall be performed at the direction of the school or institution, and in such a manner as to further the purpose of the donation, while serving the public interest.
1, 2. [C51, §186, 187, 202, 2539; R60, §396, 397, 412, 4148; C73, §352, 353, 368, 3799; C97, §515, 517, 526, 529, 531; C24, 27, 31, 35, 39, §5200, 5202, 5214, 5218, 5237; C46, 50, 54, 58, §339.3, 339.5, 339.17, 339.19, 339.22, 340.19; C62, 66, §339.5; C71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, §339.4; S81, §331.802(1, 2); 81 Acts, ch 117, §801]
3. [C51, §186; R60, §396; C73, §352; C24, 27, 31, 35, 39, §5200, 5201; C46, 50, 54, 58, §339.3, 339.4; C62, 66, §339.4; C71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, §339.6; S81, §331.802(3); 81 Acts, ch 117, §801]
4. [C71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, §339.7; S81, §331.802(4); 81 Acts, ch 117, §801]
5. [C51, §187, 188, 193; R60, §397, 398, 403; C73, §353, 354, 359; C97, §517, 518, 521; C24, 27, 31, 35, 39, §5202, 5203, 5208; C46, 50, 54, 58, §339.5, 339.6, 339.11; C62, 66, §339.6; C71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, §339.8; S81, §331.802(5); 81 Acts, ch 117, §801]
6. [C51, §190 – 192, 199; R60, §400 – 402, 409; C73, §356 – 358, 365; C97, S13, §520; C24, 27, 31, 35, 39, §5205, 5206; C46, 50, 54, 58, §339.8, 339.9; C62, 66, §339.9; C71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, §339.10; S81, §331.802(6); 81 Acts, ch 117, §801]
7. [C62, 66, §339.7; C71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, §339.14; S81, §331.802(7); 81 Acts, ch 117, §801]
8. [S81, §331.802(8); 81 Acts, ch 117, §801] 87 Acts, ch 69, §1; 96 Acts, ch 1139, §1; 98 Acts, ch 1024, §1; 99 Acts, ch 141, §40; 2002 Acts, ch 1098, §3; 2008 Acts, ch 1051, §17, 18, 22; 2008 Acts, ch 1187, §137, 138
331.803 Examination certificate — fee.
Upon application and payment of a fee determined by the board, the county medical examiner shall provide an examination certificate to the person requesting it and file a copy of the certificate in the medical examiner's office. The certificate is not required in the case of a stillborn infant if a physician was present at the stillbirth and the cause of the stillbirth, as certified by the attending physician as provided in chapter 144, does not require an investigation by a medical examiner.
[C62, 66, §339.12; C71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, §339.13; S81, §331.803; 81 Acts, ch 117, §802]
331.804 Disposition of body and other property.
1. After an investigation has been completed, including an autopsy if one is performed, the body shall be prepared for transportation. The body shall be transported by a funeral director chosen by a person authorized to control the remains of the deceased person under section 144C.5, for burial or other appropriate disposition. A medical examiner shall not use influence in favor of a particular funeral director. However, if a person other than a funeral director assumes custody of a dead body, the person shall secure a burial transit permit pursuant to section 144.32. If no one claims a body, it shall be disposed of as provided in chapter 142.
2. If no one is entitled by law to the property or money found on a deceased person, the property shall be deposited with the clerk of the district court who shall dispose of it as provided by law.
[C51, §200; R60, §410; C73, §366; C97, §527, 532, 533; C24, 27, 31, 35, 39, §5215, 5216; C46, 50, 54, 58, §339.19, 339.20; C62, 66, §339.10, 339.11; C71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, §339.11, 339.12; S81, §331.804; 81 Acts, ch 117, §803] 2002 Acts, ch 1098, §4; 2008 Acts, ch 1051, §19, 22
331.805 Prohibited actions — cremation permit — penalties.
1. When a death occurs in the manner specified in section 331.802, subsection 3, the body, clothing, and any articles upon or near the body shall not be disturbed or removed from the position in which it is found, and physical or biological evidence shall not be obtained or collected from the body, without authorization from the county medical examiner or the state medical examiner except for the purpose of preserving the body from loss or destruction or permitting the passage of traffic on a highway, railroad or airport, or unless the failure to immediately remove the body might endanger life, safety, or health. A person who moves, disturbs, or conceals a body, clothing, or any articles upon or near the body or who obtains or collects physical or biological evidence in violation of this subsection or chapter 691 is guilty of a simple misdemeanor.
2. It is unlawful to embalm a body when the embalmer has reason to believe death occurred in a manner specified in section 331.802, subsection 3, when there is evidence sufficient to arouse suspicion of crime in connection with the cause of death of the deceased, or where it is the duty of a medical examiner to view the body and investigate the death of the deceased person, until the permission of a county medical examiner has been obtained. When feasible, the body shall be released to the funeral director for embalming within twenty-four hours of death.
3. a. It is unlawful to cremate, bury, or send out of the state the body of a deceased person when death occurred in a manner specified in section 331.802, subsection 3, until a medical examiner certifies in writing that the examiner has viewed the body, has made personal inquiry into the cause and manner of death, and all necessary autopsy or postmortem examinations have been completed. However, the body of a deceased person may be sent out of state for the purpose of an autopsy or postmortem examination if the county medical examiner certifies in writing that the out-of-state autopsy or postmortem examination is necessary or, in the case of a death which is not of public interest as specified in section 331.802, subsection 3, if the attending physician certifies to the county medical examiner that the performance of the autopsy out of state is proper.
b. If the person authorized to control the remains of a deceased person under section 144C.5 has requested that the body of the deceased person be cremated, a permit for cremation must be obtained from a medical examiner. Cremation permits by the medical examiner must be made on the most current forms prepared at the direction of and approved by the state medical examiner, with copies forwarded to the state medical examiner's office. Costs for the cremation permit issued by a medical examiner shall not exceed seventy-five dollars. The costs of the permit and other reasonable cremation expenses may be paid from the decedent's estate pursuant to section 633.425, subsection 3.
4. A person who violates a provision of subsection 2 or 3 is guilty of a serious misdemeanor.
[C62, 66, §339.12; C71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, §339.9, 339.13; S81, §331.805; 81 Acts, ch 117, §804] 89 Acts, ch 81, §1; 96 Acts, ch 1148, §11; 2002 Acts, ch 1098, §5; 2005 Acts, ch 89, §37; 2008 Acts, ch 1051, §20, 22