To report a case or reach an OCME investigator for consultation, call our Vermont toll free number (888-552-2952). Your call will be answered by our central dispatch service. They will ask you "Are you reporting a new case?" Please answer, "YES".
They will then ask your location and a call back number. Our investigators are dispatched by county. The nearest investigator will be paged out and will return your call within several minutes. Please be patient.
Be prepared with the following information:
- Name of the deceased and age/date of birth.
- Circumstances surrounding the death or why you think this is a reportable case.
The investigator will be able to discuss the case with you and decide on a course of action. The investigators are in contact with the on-call forensic pathologist. Please do not try to reach the pathologist directly.
Death outside of a Health Care Setting
When someone is found dead by another person either in a residence or outdoors the usual response is to call 911. This call will activate the police, who will respond to the scene and make an assessment. Unless a person is sent home with hospice or some other home health care provider, a local medical examiner should be contacted and “(t)he medical examiner and a designated law enforcement officer shall thereupon together immediately make a proper preliminary investigation. 18 V.S.A. § 5205 (b)
If preliminary investigation indicates no suspicious circumstances, and information gathered from the scene, interviews and the person's primary care physician can determine the cause and manner of death, the OCME will issue the death certificate. If, however, initial investigation indicates something suspicious, the cause or circumstances of death are uncertain, or the State's Attorney or Chief Medical Examiner deem it necessary and in the interest of public health, welfare and safety, or in furtherance of the administration of the law, the body will be transported to the OCME facility for further investigation. That investigation may range from a detailed visual inspection to a full medical autopsy, with associated ancillary testing (including but not limited to toxicology, histology, radiography, and photography).
Death within a Health Care Setting
The following procedures should be followed when a physician or other health care provider is asked to certify a death under their care:
- Evaluate if the death is reportable to the medical examiner. In Vermont these are described under 18 V.S.A. § 5205.
Familiarity with local law is essential. If it is unclear whether the death is reportable, it is wise to report it. There is no charge for reporting (1-888-552-2952). If the medical examiner accepts the case, then they will certify the death.
If the medical examiner declines jurisdiction and asks for the death to be certified, proceed to Step 2. Before reporting a case, you must know something of the circumstances of the death. This may require contacting another physician or reviewing the medical record (see #2).
- Evaluate if there is a more appropriate certifier. Physicians, such as emergency room physicians, hospitalists, and cross-covering physicians, are often asked to certify deaths of patients about whom they have little or no personal knowledge.
In these instances, try to contact the personal or attending physician. They may be able to more accurately and completely certify the death. If there is no one more appropriate, proceed to Step 3.
- Certify the cause of death as accurately as possible.