Section 13: Release of body; pronouncement of death
Section 13. After investigation or examination by the office, the body shall be released to the person with the proper legal authority to receive it, including the surviving spouse, the next of kin, or any friend of the deceased, who shall have priority in the order named. If upon release of the body, any whole body part or organ of the deceased has been retained by the office, the authorized person receiving the body shall be so informed. No person otherwise entitled to the right of release shall be entitled to that right and that right shall be passed on to the next person in the order of priority named in this section if a named person is charged with or convicted of a criminal offense which resulted in the death of the deceased; provided, however, that if the charges against the person are dismissed, or if the person is acquitted of the charges, the right of release shall be returned to that person, unless the dismissal or acquittal occurs after the body has been released; and provided further, that any person charged with a criminal offense which resulted in the death of the deceased may petition, within 24 hours of being charged, the probate and family court for the county where the death of the decedent occurred to determine what the decedent would have wanted and to enter an order regarding the decedent's remains or awarding the right of release to a person determined by the court to be competent to carry out the disposition of the decedent. The order shall enter within 2 business days of the filing of the petition. If the body is unidentified or unclaimed after the investigation is completed, the medical examiner shall release it to the department of transitional assistance, which shall bury it pursuant to section 9 of chapter 117A. Prior to the release of the unidentified or unclaimed body to the department of transitional assistance, the chief medical examiner or a designee shall certify to the city or town clerk in the municipality where the death occurred the facts of the death as required by section 9 of chapter 46. If further identifying information is developed, the chief medical examiner or his designee shall furnish a completed certificate of death, as required by said section nine, to the city or town clerk.
In cases where jurisdiction is declined by the office, medical examiners shall have no responsibility for the pronouncement or certification of death. Immediately after pronouncement of death, a physician licensed in the commonwealth who attended the decedent during the decedent's last illness, or his covering physician, or the licensed physician who has declared such person dead, or, if the death occurred in a hospital, a hospital medical officer duly authorized by the administrator, shall, in the order named, furnish for registration a standard certificate of death as required by said section nine. No body part or organ may be retained for purposes other than determining the cause of death without consent from the deceased's next of kin. The chief medical examiner or his designee may allow any body to be moved without pronouncement if excessive hardship to the family of the decedent would otherwise result. The office may promulgate regulations further defining the circumstances in which a body may be moved without pronouncement of death. Any physician described herein who refuses to pronounce and certify death in accordance with said section nine of chapter forty-six when jurisdiction has been declined by the office shall be subject to a fine of not more than five hundred dollars. Such refusal shall also be reported to the board of registration in medicine. The chief medical examiner or his designee may waive the requirements of this paragraph and assume jurisdiction for the purpose of certifying the facts of the death as required by said section nine in cases where excessive hardship would otherwise result due to travel or in other emergency situations as may be defined by regulations promulgated by the office.