Code of the District of Columbia

§ 5–1405. Deaths — determinations and investigations; cremations.

*NOTE: This section has been amended by emergency legislation with identical permanent legislation that will become effective in December, 2021.*

(a) The CME, other medical examiners, and medicolegal investigators (physician assistants or advanced practice registered nurses) licensed under subchapter V of Chapter 12 of Title 3, are authorized to make determinations of death.

(b) Pursuant to regulations established by the Mayor, the following types of human deaths occurring in the District shall be investigated by the OCME:

(1) Violent deaths, whether apparently homicidal, suicidal, or accidental, including deaths due to thermal, chemical, electrical or radiation injury and deaths due to criminal abortion, whether apparently self-induced or not;

(2) Sudden, unexpected or unexplained deaths not caused by readily recognizable disease, including sudden infant deaths or apparent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) for infants one year of age and younger;

(3) Deaths under suspicious circumstances;

(4) Deaths of persons whose bodies are to be cremated, dissected, buried at sea or otherwise disposed of so as to be thereafter unavailable for examination;

(5) Deaths related to disease resulting from employment or on-the-job injury or illness;

(6) Deaths related to disease which might constitute a threat to public health;

(7) Deaths of persons who are wards of the District government;

(8) Deaths related to medical or surgical intervention, including operative, peri-operative, anesthesia, medication reactions or deaths associated with diagnostic or therapeutic procedures;

(9) Deaths of persons while in the legal custody of the District;

(10) Fetal deaths related to maternal trauma, including substance abuse, and extra-mural deliveries;

(11) Deaths for which the Metropolitan Police Department, another law enforcement agency, or the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia requests, or a court orders investigation;

(12) Dead bodies brought within the District without proper medical certification; and

(13) All maternal mortalities.

(b-1) For the purposes of subsection (b) of this section, the term:

(1) "Maternal mortalities" means pregnancy-associated deaths and pregnancy- related deaths, as those terms are defined in § 7-671.01(4)and (5), and deaths resulting from severe maternal morbidity.

(2) "Severe maternal morbidity" means one of the following outcomes of labor and delivery that results in short-term or long-term consequences to a birthing parent's health:

(A) Acute myocardial infarction;

(B) Acute renal failure;

(C) Adult respiratory distress syndrome;

(D) Air and thrombotic embolism;

(E) Amniotic fluid embolism;

(F) Anesthesia complications;

(G) Aneurysm;

(H) Blood products transfusion;

(I) Cardiac arrest/ventricular fibrillation;

(J) Conversion of cardiac rhythm;

(K) Disseminated intravascular coagulation;

(L) Eclampsia;

(M) Heart failure/arrest during surgery or procedure;

(N) Hysterectomy;

(O) Puerperal cerebrovascular disorders;

(P) Pulmonary edema/acute heart failure;

(Q) Sepsis;

(R) Shock;

(S) Sickle cell disease with crisis;

(T) Temporary tracheostomy; or

(U) Ventilation.

(c) Clearances by the CME shall be required for all deaths occurring in the District for which cremations are requested regardless of where the cremation will occur.

(d) The Mayor shall, by regulation, prescribe procedures for taking possession of a dead body following a death subject to investigation under subsection (b) of this section and for obtaining all essential facts concerning the medical causes of death and the names and addresses of as many witnesses as it is practicable to obtain.