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Searching 2019-2020 Session

The Vermont Statutes Online

 

Title 18: Health

Chapter 107: DEATHS, BURIALS, AUTOPSIES

  • Subchapter 001: GENERAL REQUIREMENTS
  • § 5201. Permits; removal of bodies; cremation; waiting period; investigation into circumstances of death

    (a) Burial transfer permit. A dead body shall not be buried, entombed, or removed, or otherwise disposed of without a burial-transit permit issued and signed by a municipal clerk, a county clerk, or a deputy clerk for the municipality or unorganized town or gore in which the dead body is located; a funeral director licensed in Vermont; an owner or designated manager of a crematorium licensed in Vermont who is registered to perform removals; or a law enforcement officer.

    (1) The clerk of the municipality shall provide for issuing burial-transit permits when the clerks' offices are closed. The municipal clerk shall appoint one or more deputies for this purpose and record the name of the deputy or deputies appointed in the municipal records and notify the Commissioner of Health of the names and residences of the deputy or deputies appointed.

    (2) The county clerk of a county in which an unorganized town or gore is located shall perform the same duties and be subject to the same penalties as a municipal clerk in respect to issuing burial-transit permits and registering deaths that occur in an unorganized town or gore within the county.

    (3) A funeral director licensed in Vermont or an owner or designated manager of a crematory licensed in Vermont who is registered to perform removals may issue a burial-transit permit for any municipality or unorganized town or gore at any time, including during the normal business hours of a municipal clerk.

    (4) After a burial-transit permit is issued, the person who issued the permit shall forward the death certificate or preliminary report and the record of the burial-transit permit to the clerk of the municipality, or to the clerk of the county, in the case of an unorganized town or gore, where death occurred on the first official working day thereafter.

    (5) In cases of death by certain communicable diseases as defined by the Commissioner, the municipal or county clerk, a deputy registrar, a funeral director, a crematory owner or manager, or a law enforcement officer shall not issue a burial-transit permit except in accordance with instructions issued by the Commissioner.

    (6) A body for which a burial-transit permit has been secured, except one for the body of any person whose death occurred as a result of a communicable disease, as defined by the Commissioner, may be taken through or into another municipality or unorganized town or gore for funeral services without additional permits from the local health officer or the Commissioner.

    (b) No operator of a crematory facility shall cremate or allow the cremation of a dead body until the passage of at least 24 hours following the death of the decedent, as indicated on the death certificate, unless, if the decedent died from a virulent, communicable disease, a Department of Health rule or order requires the cremation to occur prior to the end of that period. If the Attorney General or a State's Attorney requests the delay of a cremation based upon a reasonable belief that the cause of death might have been due to other than accidental or natural causes, the cremation of a dead human body shall be delayed, based upon such request, a sufficient time to permit a civil or criminal investigation into the circumstances that caused or contributed to the death.

    (c) The person in charge of the body shall not release for cremation the body of a person who died in Vermont until the person in charge has received a certificate from the chief, regional, or assistant medical examiner that the medical examiner has made personal inquiry into the cause and manner of death and is satisfied that no further examination or judicial inquiry concerning it is necessary. Upon request of a funeral director, the person in charge of the body, or the crematory operator, the Chief Medical Examiner shall issue a cremation certificate after the medical examiner has completed an autopsy. The certificate shall be retained by the crematory for a period of three years. The person requesting cremation shall pay the department a fee of $25.00.

    (d)(1) For all cremations requested for the body of a person who died outside Vermont, the crematory operator shall do the following before conducting the cremation:

    (A) obtain a permit for transit or cremation;

    (B) comply with the laws of the state in which the person died, including obtaining a copy of a medical examiner's permit if one is required.

    (2) No additional approval from the Vermont medical examiner's office is required if compliance with the laws of the state in which the person died is achieved. (Amended 1959, No. 329, § 27, eff. March 1, 1961; 1963, No. 102, § 1, eff. May 22, 1963; 1969, No. 265, § 9; 1979, No. 142 (Adj. Sess.), § 16; 1997, No. 40, § 22a; 1999, No. 45, § 3; 2007, No. 56, § 5; 1999, No. 76, § 15; 2009, No. 151 (Adj. Sess.), § 5, eff. June 1, 2010.)

  • § 5202. Report of death; death certificate; duties of licensed health care professional

    (a)(1) Within 24 hours after a death, the licensed health care professional who last attended a deceased person shall submit the medical portion of a report of death in a manner prescribed by the State Registrar. If the licensed health care professional who attended the death is unable to state the cause of death, he or she shall immediately notify the licensed health care professional, if any, who was in charge of the patient's care, and he or she shall fulfill this requirement.

    (2) If neither health care professional is able to state the cause of death, the provisions of section 5205 of this title apply.

    (3) The licensed health care professional may delegate to the funeral director or the person in charge of the body, with that individual's consent, the responsibility of completing the nonmedical portion of the report of death.

    (4) The State Registrar shall furnish the agency responsible for veterans' affairs information as to the deceased's status as a veteran.

    (5) The State Registrar shall register the report of death in the Statewide Registration System upon receipt of the required information. The portion of the report of death that is not confidential under section 5014 of this title is the death certificate.

    (b) When a death certificate is not available prior to burial or transportation of a body, any licensed health care professional who has access to the facts and can certify that the death is not subject to the provisions of section 5205 of this title may complete and sign a preliminary report of death on a form prescribed by the State Registrar. The health care professional may delegate completion of the nonmedical facts to any funeral director or person in charge of the body with access to the nonmedical facts, with that individual's consent. A person authorized to issue a burial-transit permit shall accept a properly completed preliminary report and issue a burial-transit permit. The preliminary report may be destroyed six months after the death certificate has been registered. This subsection does not relieve a licensed health care professional from his or her responsibilities under subsection (a) of this section. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 27, eff. March 1, 1961; 1963, No. 102, § 2, eff. May 22, 1963; 1969, No. 265 (Adj. Sess.), § 10; 1979, No. 142 (Adj. Sess.), § 26; 1997, No. 40, § 22b.; 2009, No. 151 (Adj. Sess.), § 6, eff. Jan. 1, 2012; 2017, No. 46, § 47, eff. July 1, 2019.)

  • § 5202a. Correction, completion, or amendment of death certificate

    (a) Corrections, completions. Within six months after the date of death, the State Registrar may correct or complete a death certificate upon application by the certifying licensed health care professional, medical examiner, hospital, nursing home, or funeral director, if the application and relevant evidence, if any, show that the correction or completion is warranted.

    (b) Amendments. After six months from the date of death, any alteration of a death certificate shall be deemed an amendment. Upon application by a person specified in subsection (a) of this section, the State Registrar may amend the death certificate if the application and relevant evidence, if any, show that the amendment is warranted.

    (c) Appeal. If the State Registrar denies an application for a correction, completion, or amendment under this section, the applicant may petition the Probate Division of the Superior Court, which shall review the application and relevant evidence de novo to determine if the requested action is warranted. The court shall transmit a decree ordering a correction, completion, or amendment to the State Registrar, who shall take action in accordance with the decree.

    (d) Documentation of changes. The State Registrar shall make corrections, completions, and amendments in the Statewide Registration System. A corrected or completed certificate issued from the System shall be free of any evidence of the alteration and shall not be marked "Amended." Any amended death certificate issued from the System shall indicate the word "Amended" and the date of amendment. The State Registrar shall enter into and maintain in the System the identity of the person requesting the correction, completion, or amendment, the nature and content of the change, the identity of the person making the change in the System, and the date the change was made.

    (e) Original certificates. If the State Registrar corrects, completes, or amends a certificate that was registered prior to July 1, 2019, he or she shall notify the town clerk or clerks with custody of the original certificate, who shall replace and dispose of the original and update indexes, as directed by the State Registrar.

    (f) Cause of death. The State Registrar shall only correct, complete, or amend the medical certification of the cause of death upon application by the medical examiner or certifying licensed health care professional. (Added 1979, No. 142 (Adj. Sess.), § 25; amended 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 238a, eff. Feb. 1, 2011; 2017, No. 46, § 52, eff. July 1, 2018; 2018, No. 11 (Sp. Sess.), § I.9, eff. July 1, 2019.)

  • § 5203. [Repealed.]

  • § 5204. [Repealed.] 2017, No. 46, § 63, eff. July 1, 2019.

  • § 5205. Death certificate when no attending physician and in other circumstances; autopsy

    (a) When a person dies from violence, or suddenly when in apparent good health or when unattended by a physician or a recognized practitioner of a well-established church, or by casualty, or by suicide or as a result of injury or when in jail or prison, or any psychiatric hospital, or in any unusual, unnatural, or suspicious manner, or in circumstances involving a hazard to public health, welfare, or safety, the head of the household, the jailer, or the superintendent of a psychiatric hospital where such death occurred, or the next of kin, or the person discovering the body or any doctor notified of the death, shall immediately notify the medical examiner who resides nearest the town where the death occurred and immediately upon being notified, such medical examiner shall notify the State's Attorney of the county in which the death occurred. The State's Attorney shall thereafter be in charge of the body and shall issue such instructions covering the care or removal of the body as he or she shall deem appropriate until he or she releases same.

    (b) The medical examiner and a designated law enforcement officer shall thereupon together immediately make a proper preliminary investigation.

    (c) Unless the cause and manner of death is uncertain, such medical examiner shall complete and sign a certificate of death. The medical examiner and the designated law enforcement officer shall each submit a report of investigation to the State's Attorney and the Chief Medical Examiner. If, however, the cause or circumstances of death are uncertain, he or she shall immediately so advise the State's Attorney of the county where the death occurred, and notify the Chief Medical Examiner.

    (d) The State's Attorney of each county, with the advice of the Commissioner of Public Safety or his or her designee, the sheriff, and the Chief of Police of any established Police Department, shall prepare a list of law enforcement officers in his or her county qualified to make an investigation and report. This list shall be made available to the medical officers concerned and such other persons as the State's Attorney deems proper.

    (e) If an undertaker or embalmer shall, in the course of his or her employment, find evidence of physical violence on the body or evidence of an unlawful act sufficient to indicate to such a person that death might have been the result of an unlawful act, he or she shall immediately notify the State's Attorney of the county where the body is then located and shall proceed no further with the preparation and embalming process of such body until permitted to do so by the State's Attorney.

    (f) The State's Attorney or Chief Medical Examiner, if either deem it necessary and in the interest of public health, welfare, and safety, or in furtherance of the administration of the law, may order an autopsy to be performed by the Chief Medical Examiner or under his or her direction. Upon completion of the autopsy, the Chief Medical Examiner shall submit a report to such State's Attorney and the Attorney General and shall submit a report of death to the State Registrar.

    (g) When a person who is committed to the custody of the Department of Corrections or who is under the supervision of the Department of Corrections dies, the Commissioner of Corrections may request to be provided with a copy of any and all reports generated pursuant to subsection (f) of this section. No such request shall be granted where the medical examiner is unable to determine a manner of death or the manner of death is classified as a homicide. In other circumstances, the request shall be granted in the discretion of the Medical Examiner for good cause shown. Reports disclosed pursuant to this subsection shall remain confidential as required by law and shall not be considered to be a public record pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 317. (Amended 1967, No. 254 (Adj. Sess.), §§ 1-3, eff. Feb. 20, 1968; 1969, No. 128, § 2; 1969, No. 265 (Adj. Sess.), § 12; 1971, No. 33, § 7; 1991, No. 191 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. May 19, 1992; 2003, No. 128 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. May 24, 2004; 2003, No. 157 (Adj. Sess.), § 13; 2013, No. 96 (Adj. Sess.), § 99; 2017, No. 46, § 50, eff. July 1, 2019.)

  • § 5206. Penalty for failure to submit report of death

    A licensed health care professional who fails to cause the medical portion of a report of death to be submitted within 24 hours after the death of a person, containing a true statement of the cause of such death, so far as these facts are obtainable, shall be fined not more than $100.00. (Amended 1963, No. 102, § 3, eff. May 22, 1963; 1969, No. 265 (Adj. Sess.), § 13; 2017, No. 46, § 51, eff. July 1, 2019.)

  • § 5207. Certificate furnished family; burial-transit permit

    Within 24 hours after death, the death certificate shall be made available upon request to the family of the deceased, if any, or the undertaker or person who has charge of the body. The certificate shall be filed with the person issuing the burial-transit permit obtained by the person who has charge of the body before such dead body shall be buried, entombed, or removed from the town. When the death certificate is so filed, the officer or person shall immediately issue a burial-transit permit under legal restrictions and safeguards. (Amended 2017, No. 46, § 53, eff. July 1, 2019.)

  • § 5208. Department of health; report on statistics

    (a) Notwithstanding the provisions of 2 V.S.A. § 20(d), beginning October 1, 2011 and every two years thereafter, the Vermont Department of Health shall report to the House Committees on Human Services and on Health Care and the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare regarding the number of persons who died during the preceding two calendar years in hospital emergency rooms, in other hospital settings, in their own homes, in a nursing home, in a hospice facility, and in any other setting for which information is available, as well as whether each decedent received hospice care within the last 30 days of his or her life. Beginning with the 2013 report, the Department shall include information on the number of persons who died in hospital intensive care units, assisted living facilities, or residential care homes during the preceding two calendar years.

    (b) [Repealed.]  (Added 2009, No. 25, § 16; amended 2013, No. 75, § 18a; 2017, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 4b, eff. May 21, 2018.)

  • § 5209. Death out of State; burial permit

    Whenever a dead body is brought into this State for burial or entombment accompanied by a removal permit issued under the laws of the state from which such body is brought, such permit shall be received as sufficient authority for burial; but if not accompanied by such permit, the person in charge thereof shall apply to the clerk of the town in which such body is to be buried for a burial permit, and the clerk shall issue such permit when furnished with such information as is required by law of this State as to the identity and cause of death of a person dying in this State.

  • § 5210. Form of burial or removal permit

    If it is desired to bury, entomb, or otherwise dispose of a dead body within the limits of a town where the death occurred, the certificate of permission shall state plainly the time, place, and manner of such burial, entombment, or disposition. If it is desired to remove a dead body from the town where the death occurred, the certificate of permission shall contain the essential facts contained in the certificate of death on which it is issued, shall accompany the body to its destination, and may be accepted as a permit for burial or entombment by a sexton or other person having the care of a cemetery, burial ground, tomb, or receiving vault.

  • § 5211. Unauthorized burial or removal; penalty

    A person who buries, entombs, transports, or removes the dead body of a person without a burial-transit permit so to do, or in any other manner or at any other time or place than as specified in such permit, shall be imprisoned not more than five years or fined not more than $1,000.00, or both. (Amended 1969, No. 265 (Adj. Sess.), § 14; 2017, No. 46, § 54, eff. July 1, 2019.)

  • § 5212. Permit to remove dead bodies

    (a) A person desirous of disinterring or removing the body of a human being from one cemetery to another cemetery or to another part of the same cemetery or from a tomb or receiving vault elsewhere shall apply to the clerk of the municipality in which the dead body is interred or entombed for a removal permit.

    (b) An applicant for a removal permit shall publish notice of his or her intent to remove the remains. This notice shall be published for two successive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality in which the body is interred or entombed. The notice shall include a statement that the spouse, child, parent, sibling, or descendant of the deceased, or that the cemetery commissioner or other municipal authority responsible for cemeteries in the municipality may object to the proposed removal by filing a complaint in the Probate Division of the Superior Court of the district in which the body is located as provided in section 5212a of this title.

    (c) The municipal clerk shall issue a removal permit 45 days after the date on which notice was last published pursuant to subsection (b) of this section or, if an objection is made pursuant to section 5212a, of this title upon order of the court.

    (d) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (b) and (c) of this section, a removal permit shall be issued upon application:

    (1) when removal is necessary because of temporary entombment; or

    (2) to a federal, state, county, or municipal official acting pursuant to official duties; or

    (3) if the applicant has written permission to remove the remains from all persons entitled to object under section 5212a of this title.

    (e) This section does not apply to:

    (1) Unmarked burial sites that are subject to the provisions of subchapter 1 of this chapter.

    (2) The removal of "historic remains," which has the same meaning as in subdivision 5217(a)(1) of this title. (Amended 1985, No. 206 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. June 2, 1986; 2009, No. 151 (Adj. Sess.), § 3; 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 238a, eff. Feb. 1, 2011.)

  • § 5212a. Removal; objections

    (a) Unless removal is otherwise authorized by law, a spouse, child, parent, or sibling of the deceased may, within 30 days after the date notice was last published under section 5212 of this title, object to the proposed removal by filing a complaint in the Probate Division of the Superior Court of the district in which the body is interred or entombed. A copy of the complaint shall be filed with the clerk of the town where the body is interred or entombed.

    (b) The Probate Division of the Superior Court shall, after hearing, issue its order authorizing removal of the body unless:

    (1) removal would be contrary to the expressed intent of the deceased;

    (2) removal is objected to by the surviving spouse of the deceased;

    (3) removal is objected to by an adult son or daughter of the deceased and there is no surviving spouse of the deceased;

    (4) removal is objected to by a parent of the deceased and there is no surviving spouse or son or daughter of the deceased; or

    (5) removal is objected to by an adult sibling of the deceased and there is no surviving spouse, son or daughter, or parent of the deceased. (Added 1985, No. 206 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. June 2, 1986; amended 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 238a, eff. Feb. 1, 2011.)

  • § 5212b. Unmarked Burial Sites Special Fund; reporting of unmarked burial sites

    (a) The Unmarked Burial Sites Special Fund is established in the State Treasury for the purpose of protecting, preserving, moving, or reinterring human remains discovered in unmarked burial sites.

    (b) The Fund shall be composed of any monies appropriated to the Fund by the General Assembly or received from any other source, private or public. Interest earned on the Fund, and any balance remaining in the Fund at the end of a fiscal year, shall be retained in the Fund. This Fund shall be maintained by the State Treasurer, and shall be managed in accordance with 32 V.S.A. chapter 7, subchapter 5.

    (c) The Commissioner of Housing and Community Development may authorize disbursements from the Fund for use in any municipality in which human remains are discovered in unmarked burial sites, in accordance with a process approved by the Commissioner. The Commissioner may approve any process developed through consensus or agreement of the interested parties, including the municipality, a Native American group historically based in Vermont with a connection to the remains, owners of private property on which there are known or likely to be unmarked burial sites, and any other appropriate interested parties, provided the Commissioner determines that the process is likely to be effective, and includes all the following:

    (1) Methods for determining the presence of unmarked burial sites, including archaeological surveys and assessments and other nonintrusive techniques.

    (2) Methods for handling development and excavation on property on which it is known that there is or is likely to be one or more unmarked burial sites.

    (3) Options for owners of property on which human remains in unmarked burial sites are discovered or determined to be located.

    (4) Procedures for protecting, preserving, or moving unmarked burial sites and human remains, subject, where applicable, to the permit requirement and penalties of this chapter.

    (5) Procedures for resolving disputes.

    (d) If unmarked burial sites and human remains are removed, consistent with the process set forth in this section and any permit required by this chapter, there shall be no criminal liability under 13 V.S.A. § 3761.

    (e) The funds shall be used for the following purposes relating to unmarked burial sites:

    (1) To monitor excavations.

    (2) To protect, preserve, move, or reinter unmarked burial sites and human remains.

    (3) To perform archaeological assessments and archaeological site or field investigations, including radar scanning and any other nonintrusive technology or technique designed to determine the presence of human remains.

    (4) To provide mediation and other appropriate dispute resolution services.

    (5) To acquire property or development rights, provided the Commissioner of Housing and Community Development determines that disbursements for this purpose will not unduly burden the Fund, and further provided the Commissioner shall expend funds for this purpose only with the concurrence of the Secretary of Commerce and Community Development and after consultation with the legislative bodies of any affected municipality or municipalities.

    (6) Any other appropriate purpose determined by the Commissioner to be consistent with the purposes of this Fund.

    (f) When an unmarked burial site is first discovered, the discovery shall be reported immediately to a law enforcement agency. If, after completion of an investigation pursuant to section 5205 of this title, a law enforcement agency determines that the burial site does not constitute evidence of a crime, the law enforcement agency shall immediately notify the State Archeologist, who may authorize appropriate action regarding the unmarked burial site. (Added 2001, No. 149 (Adj. Sess.), § 57, eff. June 27, 2002; amended 2003, No. 63, § 36, eff. June 11, 2003; 2009, No. 135 (Adj. Sess.), § 10; 2009, No. 151 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. June 1, 2010; 2017, No. 74, § 28.)

  • § 5213. Removal; form and disposition of permit

    Such permit shall state specifically where such body is to be buried, cremated, or entombed and the time and manner of its removal. A town clerk issuing such a permit shall make it in duplicate if the body is to be removed from the town, one copy of which shall be delivered to the person having charge of the cemetery or tomb from which the body is to be taken and the other shall be delivered to the person having charge of the cemetery or tomb wherein it is desired to place the body. (Amended 1979, No. 142 (Adj. Sess.), § 17.)

  • § 5214. Duties of sexton; no burial or removal without permit

    A sexton or other person having the care of a cemetery, tomb, or receiving vault shall not receive or permit the burial or entombment of a dead body, or the remains thereof, in the cemetery or tomb of which he or she has charge, or the removal of a body therefrom, until there is delivered to him or her a certificate of permission issued in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.

  • § 5215. Burial returns

    A sexton or other person having charge of a cemetery, tomb, or receiving vault, during the first week of each month, shall deliver to the clerk of the town in which such cemetery, tomb, or vault is located the burial-transit and removal permits, properly certified, which he or she received during the preceding month. (Amended 1969, No. 265 (Adj. Sess.), § 15.)

  • § 5216. Penalty

    A sexton or other person having charge of a cemetery, tomb, or receiving vault who violates a provision of sections 5214 and 5215 of this title shall be fined not more than $500.00 nor less than $20.00.

  • § 5217. Removal of marked historic remains

    (a) As used in this section:

    (1) "Historic remains" means remains of a human being who has been deceased for 100 years or more, and the remains are marked and located in a publicly known or marked burial ground or cemetery.

    (2) "Public good" means actions that will benefit the municipality and the property where the remains are located.

    (3) "Remains" means cremated human remains that are in a container or the bodily remains of a human being.

    (4) "Removal" means the transporting of human remains from one location to another premises.

    (b) A person may apply for a removal permit to disinter or remove historic remains by filing an application with the clerk for the municipality in which the historic remains are located. The application shall include all the following:

    (1) Identification of the specific location and marking of the remains.

    (2) Identification of the specific location in which the remains will be reburied.

    (3) The reasons for removal of the remains, including a statement of the public good that will result from the removal.

    (c) An applicant for a removal permit shall send notice by first-class mail to all the following:

    (1) The cemetery commissioner or other municipal authority responsible for cemeteries in the municipality in which the historic remains are located.

    (2) All historical societies located within the municipality in which the historic remains are located.

    (3) Any descendant known to the applicant. The applicant shall contact the Vermont Historical Society, the Vermont Old Cemetery Association, the Vermont Cemetery Association, and any veterans' organization operating within the county in which the historic remains are located in order to ascertain the whereabouts of any known descendants.

    (4) The State Archeologist.

    (d) A cemetery commissioner or municipal authority responsible for cemeteries, a historical society, a descendant, or the State Archeologist may file an objection to the proposed removal of historic remains with the Probate Court in the district in which the historic remains are located and with the clerks of the municipality in which the historic remains are located within 30 days after the date the notice was mailed.

    (e) If no objection is received within 30 days after the date the notice was last published as required by subsection (c) of this section, the municipal clerk shall issue a removal permit.

    (f) If the Probate Court receives an objection within the 30-day period, the court shall notify the clerk for the municipality in which the historic remains are located and schedule a hearing on whether to allow removal as described in the application.

    (g) The Probate Court, after hearing, shall order the municipal clerk to grant or deny a permit for removal of the historic remains. The court shall consider the impact of the removal on the public good.

    (h) The permit shall require that all remains, markers, and relevant funeral-related materials associated with the burial site be removed, and the permit may require that the removal be conducted or supervised by a qualified professional archeologist in compliance with standard archeological process. All costs associated with the removal shall be paid by the applicant. (Added 2009, No. 151 (Adj. Sess.), § 4, eff. June 1, 2010; amended 2017, No. 113 (Adj. Sess.), § 93.)

  • § 5218. Determination of death

    An individual who has sustained either irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, or irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions is dead. A determination of death must be in accordance with accepted medical standards. (Added 1981, No. 62, eff. April 30, 1981.)

  • § 5219. Persons missing and presumed dead; issuance of presumptive death certificate

    (a) On application of a spouse, parent, child, or other near relative, the Probate Division of the Superior Court may direct the Chief Medical Examiner to complete and sign a certificate of presumed death of a person who was a resident of the probate district and who has been absent for a continuous period of five years during which, after diligent search, the person has not been heard of or from or seen and whose absence has not been satisfactorily explained.

    (b) On application of a spouse, parent, child, or other near relative, the Superior Court may direct the Chief Medical Examiner to complete and sign a certificate of presumed death of a person who has been exposed to a specific peril of death and after diligent search, has not been heard of or from or seen. (Added 1989, No. 236 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. June 4, 1990; amended 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 238a, eff. Feb. 1, 2011.)

  • § 5220. Repealed. 2015, No. 23, § 152(2).


  • Subchapter 002: FETAL DEATHS
  • § 5221. Definitions

    For the purposes of this subchapter:

    (1) "Fetal death" means a death prior to the complete expulsion or extraction from the mother of a product of conception; the death is indicated by the fact that after such separation, the fetus does not breathe or show any other evidence of life such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles. (Added 1973, No. 99, § 1.)

  • § 5222. Reports

    (a) The following fetal deaths shall be reported by the hospital, physician, or funeral director directly to the Commissioner within seven days after delivery on forms prescribed by the board:

    (1) All fetal deaths of 20 or more weeks of gestation or, if gestational age is unknown, of 400 or more grams, 15 or more ounces, fetal weight shall be reported;

    (2) All therapeutic or induced abortions, as legally authorized to be performed, of any length gestation or weight shall be reported;

    (3) Spontaneous abortions and ectopic pregnancies of less than 20 weeks gestation are not required to be reported.

    (b) The physician who treats a woman as a result of a miscarriage or abortion shall report the fetal death if it is not known to be previously reported under subsection (a) of this section. If there is evidence of violence or other unusual or suspicious circumstances, the medical examiner shall be immediately notified, and he or she shall complete at least the medical items on the report. If a funeral director is to be involved, the physician may delegate to the funeral director the responsibility for completing items other than those of a medical nature. Similarly, the physician may delegate the responsibility for completion of nonmedical items to appropriate personnel having access to records containing the information.

    (c) If a fetal death occurs on a moving conveyance, the place of occurrence shall be given as the town or city where removal from the vehicle took place.

    (d) Fetal death reports are for statistical purposes only and are not public records. They shall be destroyed after five years. (Added 1973, No. 99, § 1.)

  • § 5223. Unidentified fetus

    A medical examiner shall investigate an unidentified fetus and shall prepare and file a report. If it cannot otherwise be determined, the place where the fetus was found shall be entered as place of fetal death. (Added 1973, No. 99, § 1.)

  • § 5224. Disposition of remains; permits

    (a) Fetal remains shall be disposed of by burial or cremation unless released to an educational institution for scientific purposes or disposed of by the hospital or as directed by the attending physician in a manner which will not create a public health hazard. Permission shall be obtained from one of the parents, if competent, for disposition in all cases where a funeral director is not involved. One copy of the fetal death report shall be printed in such manner that completion and signing by the physician or medical examiner shall constitute permission to make final disposition of the fetal remains.

    (b) When a funeral director is involved or when the fetal remains are to be privately buried or disposed of by a commercial crematory, the funeral director or other person taking charge of the remains shall obtain from the hospital or physician the disposition permit portion of the report and shall deliver it to the sexton or other person having care of the cemetery, tomb, vault, or crematory before burial or other disposition takes place. These permits shall be delivered each month to the clerk of the town in which burial or disposition took place, in the same manner as permits for burial of dead bodies; so also shall all other provisions of sections 5209-5216 of this title be applicable to fetal remains as are applicable to dead bodies.

    (c) When disposition of fetal remains is by means other than those specified in subsection (b) of this section and a funeral director is not involved, the disposition permit copy of the report shall be completed by the appropriate official of the hospital or by the physician or other person in charge of disposition and sent to the Commissioner within 10 days of such disposition. These permits may be destroyed after five years. (Added 1973, No. 99, § 1.)

  • § 5225. Penalty

    A person who violates a provision of this subchapter, unless another penalty is otherwise provided, shall be fined not more than $500.00. (Added 1973, No. 99, § 1.)


  • Subchapter 003: RIGHTS OF FAMILY MEMBERS AND OTHER INTERESTED PERSONS, FUNERAL DIRECTORS, AND CREMATORY OPERATORS
  • § 5226. Definitions

    For purposes of this subchapter:

    (1) "Estranged" means a physical and emotional separation from the decedent at the time of death, which has existed for a period of time that demonstrates an absence of affection, trust, and regard for the decedent.

    (2) "Near relative" means the individuals listed in subdivisions 5227(a)(2) through (5) of this title.

    (3) "Right to disposition" means the right to determine the disposition of the remains of a decedent, including the location, manner, and conditions of disposition and arrangements for funeral goods and services. (Added 2007, No. 56, § 1.)

  • § 5227. Right to disposition

    (a) If there is no written directive of the decedent, in the following order of priority, one or more competent adults shall have the right to determine the disposition of the remains of a decedent, including the location, manner, and conditions of disposition and arrangements for funeral goods and services:

    (1) an individual appointed to arrange for the disposition of decedent's remains pursuant to chapter 231 (advance directives) of this title;

    (2) a surviving spouse of the decedent;

    (3) a sole surviving child of the decedent or a majority of the surviving children, except as provided for in subdivision (b)(1) of this section, provided that if the child is a minor, his or her interest may only be effected by a legal guardian appointed by the Probate Division of the Superior Court;

    (4) in the case of a minor or a disabled adult, the custodial parent or the parent who had been providing the primary physical care of the decedent; or, if not applicable, a sole surviving parent, or both parents, of the decedent; or either parent as provided for in subdivision (b)(2) of this section;

    (5) a sole surviving sibling of the decedent or a majority of the surviving siblings, except as provided for in subdivision (b)(3) of this section;

    (6) any other family member, in descending order of kinship under the laws of descent and distribution, except that if there is more than one family member of the same degree of relation, a majority of family members of that degree, except as provided in subdivision (b)(4) of this section, may exercise the right of disposition;

    (7) a guardian of the decedent at the time of death;

    (8) any other individual willing to assume the responsibilities to act and arrange the final disposition of the decedent's remains, including the representative of the decedent's estate, after attesting in writing that a good faith but unsuccessful effort has been made to contact the individuals described in subdivisions (1) through (7) of this subsection or that those individuals have waived any interest in exercising their rights under this subchapter;

    (9) the funeral director or crematory operator with custody of the body, after attesting in writing that a good faith effort has been made to contact the individuals described in subdivisions (1) through (8) of this subsection; or

    (10) the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner when it has jurisdiction and custody of the body, after attesting in writing that a good faith effort has been made to contact the individuals described in subdivisions (1) through (8) of this subsection.

    (b)(1) If there is more than one surviving child of the decedent and a majority of the children is unable to be contacted, less than a majority of the surviving children may make the decisions if they have made prompt, reasonable efforts to contact all other surviving children and prompt efforts to notify them of the proposed decisions, and do not know of any opposition to those decisions.

    (2) If one parent is unable to be contacted, the remaining parent may make the decisions if that parent has made prompt, reasonable efforts to contact the other parent and is not aware of any opposition by the other parent to those decisions.

    (3) If there is more than one surviving sibling of the decedent and a majority of the siblings is unable to be contacted, less than a majority of the surviving siblings may make the decisions if they have made prompt, reasonable efforts to contact all other surviving siblings and prompt efforts to notify them of the proposed decisions, and do not know of any opposition to those decisions.

    (4) If there is more than one family member in the highest applicable order of kinship under the laws of descent and distribution and a majority of these family members is unable to be contacted, less than a majority of the surviving family members in this order may make the decisions if they have made prompt, reasonable efforts to contact all other surviving family members in this order and prompt efforts to notify them of the proposed decisions, and do not know of any opposition to those decisions.

    (c)(1) If the disposition of the remains of a decedent is determined under subdivision (a)(9) of this section and the funeral director or crematory operator has cremated the remains, the funeral director or crematory operator shall retain the remains for three years and, if no interested party as provided in subdivisions (a)(1) through (8) of this section claims the decedent's remains after three years, the funeral director or crematory operator shall arrange for the final disposition of the cremated remains consistent with any applicable law and standard funeral practices.

    (2) Notwithstanding any provision of subdivision (1) of this subsection to the contrary, a funeral director or crematory operator may determine that the unclaimed cremated remains of a deceased veteran shall be interred at the Vermont Veterans Memorial Cemetery pursuant to 20 V.S.A. § 1586 if:

    (A) at least 180 days have passed since the funeral director or crematory operator cremated the remains;

    (B) the funeral director or crematory operator either:

    (i) has actual knowledge that there is no interested party as provided in subdivisions (a)(1) through (8) of this section to claim the decedent's remains; or

    (ii) after making reasonable efforts, has been unable to locate and contact any known interested party as provided in subdivisions (a)(1) through (8) of this section; and

    (C) the funeral director or crematory operator has confirmed with the Office of Veterans Affairs that the deceased veteran is eligible to be interred at the Vermont Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

    (d)(1) If the disposition of the remains of a decedent is determined under subdivision (a)(10) of this section, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner may contract with a funeral director or crematory operator to cremate the remains of the decedent.

    (2)(A) If the cremation of the decedent is arranged and paid for under 33 V.S.A. § 2301, the Department for Children and Families shall pay the cremation expenses to the funeral home, up to the maximum payment permitted by rule by the Department for Children and Families.

    (B) If the cremation of the decedent is not arranged and paid for under 33 V.S.A. § 2301, the Department of Health shall pay the cremation expenses to the funeral home, up to the maximum payment permitted by rule by the Department for Children and Families.

    (3) The cremated remains shall be returned to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The Office shall retain the remains for three years, and if no interested party, as described in subdivisions (a)(1) through (8) of this section, claims the decedent's remains after three years, the Office shall arrange for the final disposition of the cremated remains consistent with any applicable law and standard funeral practices.

    (4) Notwithstanding any provision of subdivision (3) of this subsection to the contrary, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner may determine that the unclaimed cremated remains of a deceased veteran shall be interred at the Vermont Veterans Memorial Cemetery pursuant to 20 V.S.A. § 1586 if:

    (A) at least 180 days have passed since the remains were cremated;

    (B) the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner either:

    (i) has actual knowledge that there is no interested party as provided in subdivisions (a)(1) through (8) of this section to claim the decedent's remains; or

    (ii) after making reasonable efforts, has been unable to locate and contact any known interested party as provided in subdivisions (a)(1) through (8) of this section; and

    (C) the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has confirmed with the Office of Veterans Affairs that the deceased veteran is eligible to be interred at the Vermont Veterans Memorial Cemetery. (Added 2007, No. 56, § 1; amended 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 238a, eff. Feb. 1, 2011; 2013, No. 32, § 2; 2015, No. 23, § 45; 2019, No. 9, § 2 eff. April 23, 2019.)

  • § 5228. Forfeiture

    An individual recognized under section 5227 of this title to have a right of disposition shall forfeit that right in the following circumstances:

    (1) the individual is identified by a law enforcement agency as a person of interest and likely to be prosecuted or is under prosecution for first or second degree murder or voluntary manslaughter in connection with the decedent's death, if the status of the investigation or the prosecution is known to the funeral director or crematory operator, except that if the prosecution is not pursued or the individual is acquitted of the alleged crime before the remains are disposed of, the individual shall regain the right;

    (2) the individual does not exercise the right of disposition within three days of notification of the death or within five days of the decedent's time of death, whichever is earlier;

    (3) the Probate Division of the Superior Court pursuant to section 5231 of this title determines that the individual entitled to the right of disposition and the decedent were estranged at the time of death; or

    (4) as otherwise ordered by the Probate Division of the Superior Court. (Added 2007, No. 56, § 1; amended 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 238a, eff. Feb. 1, 2011.)

  • § 5229. Cost of disposition

    The cost for the disposition of remains and funeral goods or services shall be borne by the decedent's estate, subject to the limits for insolvent estates imposed by 14 V.S.A. § 1205, or by any individual who agrees to pay the costs. Nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to require a funeral director or crematory operator to provide goods or services for which there is no payment. (Added 2007, No. 56, § 1.)

  • § 5230. Rights of funeral director or crematory operator

    A funeral director or crematory operator may determine the final disposition of remains and may file a civil action in Probate Division of the Superior Court against a person, estate, banking institution, governmental agency, or other entity which may have liability for the final disposition, either:

    (1) to seek a declaratory judgment that the director's or operator's proposed action would be in compliance with the applicable provisions of law; or

    (2) to seek a judgment that the director or operator's action is in compliance with the applicable provisions of law and to recover reasonable costs and fees for the final disposition when:

    (A) the funeral director or crematory operator has actual knowledge that there is no surviving family member, guardian, or individual appointed to arrange for the disposition of decedent's remains pursuant to chapter 231 of this title;

    (B) the funeral director or crematory operator has made reasonable efforts to locate and contact any known family member, guardian, or agent; and

    (C) the appropriate local or State authority, if any, fails to assume responsibility for disposition of the remains within 36 hours of written notice, which may be delivered by hand, U.S. mail, facsimile transmission, electronic means, or telegraph. (Added 2007, No. 56, § 1; amended 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 238a, eff. Feb. 1, 2011.)

  • § 5231. Civil action

    (a) Any individual who is a near relative of the decedent or the custodian of the decedent's remains may file an action in the Probate Division of the Superior Court requesting the court to appoint an individual to make decisions regarding the disposition of the decedent's remains or to resolve a dispute regarding the appropriate disposition of remains, including any decisions regarding funeral goods and services. The court or the individual filing the action may move to join any necessary person under the jurisdiction of the court as a party. The Agency of Human Services may also be joined as a party if it is suggested on the record that there will be insufficient financial resources to pay for funeral goods and services.

    (b) In making its decision, the court shall consider the following factors:

    (1) the decedent's expressed directions or wishes;

    (2) the decedent's religious affiliation or beliefs;

    (3) the cost and practicality of the proposed arrangements and disposition and the ability of the responsible party or parties to pay for the proposed arrangements and disposition;

    (4) the relationship between the decedent and any individual claiming the right of disposition, including whether the individual and the decedent were estranged;

    (5) the wishes of any individual willing to pay the cost of the proposed arrangements and disposition;

    (6) whether the proposed arrangements are inclusive of the desires of the family; and

    (7) any other information the court, in its discretion, deems relevant.

    (c) Except as provided for under subdivision (b)(4) of this section, an individual who has paid or agreed to pay for all or part of the funeral arrangements or final disposition does not have greater priority to the right to disposition than as set forth in section 5227 of this title.

    (d)(1) A funeral director or crematory operator may refuse to accept bodily remains, to inter or otherwise dispose of bodily remains, or to complete the arrangements for the final disposition until such time as the court issues an order or the parties to the action submit a final stipulation approved by the court regarding the disposition of remains.

    (2) If the funeral director or crematory operator retains the remains for final disposition while an action is pending, the funeral director or crematory operator may refrigerate or shelter the remains while awaiting a preliminary or final order of the court. The cost of refrigeration or sheltering shall be the responsibility of the party or parties who contracted with the funeral director or crematory operator, the person or entity who is otherwise liable for the costs of final disposition, or the estate as ordered by the court, or any combination of these, and the court may include in the order a decision concerning which of these shall be responsible for paying these costs.

    (e) If a funeral director or crematory operator commences an action under this section, the funeral director or crematory operator may ask the court to include an order against the estate or the parties for reasonable legal fees and costs. If the estate is insolvent and no other person should be responsible for the filing fee, the court may waive the filing fee. The court, in its discretion, may order a party or parties to pay the reasonable costs of final disposition as a condition of the appointment to make disposition decisions. The court may order that a party, or parties, including the petitioner, pay reasonable legal fees and costs associated with the action.

    (f) Any appeal from the probate court shall be on the record to the Civil Division of the Superior Court. There shall be no appeal as a matter of right to the Supreme Court. (Added 2007, No. 56, § 1; amended 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 148, eff. Feb. 1, 2011.)

  • § 5232. Procedures generally

    (a) Any action filed under this subchapter shall be summary in nature, and a hearing shall be held as soon as practicable. The Probate Division of the Superior Court may order interim, ex parte relief based on available information. In extraordinary circumstances, the court may authorize use of discovery, subject to the inherent time constraints required because of the subject matter. The Vermont Rules of Evidence shall not apply, except for those rules respecting privilege. Affidavits of parties and witnesses shall be admissible evidence that may be rebutted by witnesses or affidavits offered by other parties. Other evidence is admissible if it is of a type commonly relied upon by reasonably prudent persons in the conduct of their daily affairs. Telephone testimony shall be authorized unless otherwise ordered for good cause shown. Any person shall be entitled, but not required, to be represented by an attorney. (Added 2007, No. 56, § 1; amended 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 238a, eff. Feb. 1, 2011.)

  • § 5233. Limited liability

    A funeral director or crematory operator shall not be subject to civil liability or subject to disciplinary action for carrying out the disposition of the remains if he or she relied in good faith on a funeral service contract or authorization or for following the instructions of an individual whom the funeral director or crematory operator reasonably believes or believed holds the right of disposition. (Added 2007, No. 56, § 1.)

  • § 5234. Organ Donation Special Fund

    There is created the Organ Donation Special Fund, which shall be a special fund established and managed pursuant to 32 V.S.A. chapter 7, subchapter 5. The Organ Donation Special Fund shall consist of any federal funds, grants, and private donations solicited by the Commissioner of Health for use within the Fund. The Organ Donation Special Fund shall be used for activities related to increasing organ donations in Vermont. (Added 2013, No. 32, § 5.)