CHAPTER 979
INVESTIGATION OF DEATHS
979.01   Reporting deaths required; penalty; taking specimens by coroner or medical examiner.
979.012   Reporting deaths of public health concern.
979.015   Subpoena for documents.
979.02   Autopsies.
979.025   Autopsy of correctional inmate.
979.03   Autopsy for sudden infant death syndrome.
979.04   Inquests: when called.
979.05   Inquests: procedure.
979.06   Inquests: witnesses.
979.07   Incriminating testimony compelled; immunity.
979.08   Inquests: instructions, burden of proof and verdict.
979.09   Burial of body.
979.10   Cremation.
979.11   Compensation of officers.
979.12   Fees for morgue services.
979.22   Autopsies and toxicological services by medical examiners.
Ch. 979 Cross-reference Cross-reference: See definitions in s. 967.02.
979.01 979.01 Reporting deaths required; penalty; taking specimens by coroner or medical examiner.
979.01(1) (1) All physicians, authorities of hospitals, sanatoriums, public and private institutions, convalescent homes, authorities of any institution of a like nature, and other persons having knowledge of the death of any person who has died under any of the following circumstances, shall immediately report the death to the sheriff, police chief, or medical examiner or coroner of the county where the death took place:
979.01(1)(a) (a) All deaths in which there are unexplained, unusual or suspicious circumstances.
979.01(1)(b) (b) All homicides.
979.01(1)(c) (c) All suicides.
979.01(1)(d) (d) All deaths following an abortion.
979.01(1)(e) (e) All deaths due to poisoning, whether homicidal, suicidal or accidental.
979.01(1)(f) (f) All deaths following accidents, whether the injury is or is not the primary cause of death.
979.01(1)(g) (g) When there was no physician, or accredited practitioner of a bona fide religious denomination relying upon prayer or spiritual means for healing in attendance within 30 days preceding death.
979.01(1)(h) (h) When a physician refuses to sign the death certificate.
979.01(1)(i) (i) When, after reasonable efforts, a physician cannot be obtained to sign the medical certification as required under s. 69.18 (2) (b) or (c) within 6 days after the pronouncement of death or sooner under circumstances which the coroner or medical examiner determines to be an emergency.
979.01(1g) (1g) A sheriff or police chief shall, immediately upon notification under sub. (1) or s. 948.23 (1) (b) of a death, notify the coroner or the medical examiner, and the coroner or medical examiner of the county where death took place, if the crime, injury, or event occurred in another county, shall immediately report the death to the coroner or medical examiner of that county.
979.01(1m) (1m) The coroner or medical examiner receiving notification under sub. (1) or (1g) shall immediately notify the district attorney.
979.01(1r) (1r) If the coroner or medical examiner is notified of a death under sub. (1) or (1g) and determines that his or her notification of the death was not required under sub. (1) or (1g), he or she shall notify the director of the historical society under s. 157.70 (3).
979.01(2) (2) Unless s. 948.23 (1) (b) applies, any person who violates this section shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned not more than 90 days.
979.01(3) (3) In all cases of death reportable under sub. (1) or s. 948.23 (1) (b) where an autopsy is not performed, the coroner or medical examiner may take for analysis any and all specimens, body fluids and any other material which will assist him or her in determining the cause of death. The specimens, body fluids and other material taken under this subsection shall not be admissible in evidence in any civil action against the deceased or the deceased's estate, as the result of any act of the deceased.
979.01(3m) (3m) In all cases of death reportable under sub. (1) or s. 948.23 (1) (b) where an autopsy is not performed, the coroner or medical examiner shall take for analysis any and all specimens, body fluids and any other material that will assist him or her in determining the cause of death if requested to do so by a spouse, parent, child or sibling of the deceased person and not objected to by any of those family members. The specimens, body fluids and other material taken under this subsection shall not be admissible in evidence in any civil action against the deceased or his or her estate, as the result of any act of the deceased.
979.01(4) (4) No person may embalm or perform an autopsy on the body of any person who has died under any of the circumstances listed in this section or on the body of any person whose death has been reported under s. 948.23 (1) (b) unless the person obtains the written authorization of the coroner of the county in which the injury or cause of death occurred. Such authorization shall be issued by the coroner or a deputy within 12 hours after notification of the reportable death, or as soon thereafter as possible in the event of unexplained, unusual or suspicious circumstances.
979.01 Cross-reference Cross-reference: See also s. DHS 135.09, Wis. adm. code.
979.01 Annotation Admission of a blood sample is not barred by sub. (3) when the action is brought by the deceased's estate. Luedtke v. Shedivy, 51 Wis. 2d 110, 186 N.W.2d 220 (1971).
979.01 Annotation If an accident occurs in one county and the victim is transported to another county, and death occurs there, the coroner where the death occurs has a duty to immediately report the death to the coroner of county where the crime, injury, or event occurred, and the coroner of the latter county has authority to investigate and a duty to hold an inquest if he or she considers it necessary or if directed by the district attorney of his or her county. 62 Atty. Gen. 127.
979.012 979.012 Reporting deaths of public health concern.
979.012(1)(1) If a coroner or medical examiner is aware of the death of a person who, at the time of his or her death, had an illness or a health condition that satisfies s. 323.02 (16) (a) or if the coroner or medical examiner knows or suspects that the person had a communicable disease that, under rules promulgated by the department of health services, must be reported to a local health officer or to the state epidemiologist, the coroner or medical examiner shall report the illness, health condition, or communicable disease to the department of health services and to the local health department, as defined in s. 250.01 (4), in whose jurisdiction the coroner or medical examiner is located in writing or by electronic transmission within 24 hours of learning of the deceased's illness, health condition, or communicable disease.
979.012(2) (2) In a report under sub. (1), the coroner or medical examiner shall include all of the following information if such information is available:
979.012(2)(a) (a) The illness, health condition, or communicable disease of the deceased.
979.012(2)(b) (b) The name, date of birth, gender, race, occupation, and home and work addresses of the deceased.
979.012(2)(c) (c) The name and address of the coroner or medical examiner.
979.012(2)(d) (d) If the illness, health condition, or communicable disease was related to an animal or insect bite, the suspected location where the bite occurred and the name and address of the owner of the animal or insect, if an owner is identified.
979.012 History History: 2001 a. 109; 2005 a. 198; 2007 a. 20 s. 9121 (6) (a); 2009 a. 42.
979.015 979.015 Subpoena for documents. Upon the request of the coroner, medical examiner or district attorney, a court shall issue a subpoena requiring the production of documents necessary for the determination of a decedent's cause of death. The documents may include the decedent's patient health care records and treatment records, as defined in ss. 51.30 and 146.81 (4). The documents shall be returnable to the officer named in the subpoena.
979.015 History History: 1983 a. 279.
979.02 979.02 Autopsies. The coroner, medical examiner or district attorney may order the conducting of an autopsy upon the body of a dead person any place within the state in cases where an inquest might be had as provided in s. 979.04 notwithstanding the fact that no such inquest is ordered or conducted. The autopsy shall be conducted by a licensed physician who has specialized training in pathology. The district attorney may move the circuit court for the county in which the body is buried for an order disinterring the body for purposes of autopsy. The order shall be granted by the circuit court upon a reasonable showing that any of the criteria specified in s. 979.04 exists. This section does not prevent additional autopsies or examinations of the body if there are unanswered pathological questions concerning the death and the causes of death.
979.02 History History: 1983 a. 279 s. 12; Stats. 1983 s. 979.02.
979.025 979.025 Autopsy of correctional inmate.
979.025(1) (1) Inmate confined to an institution in this state. If an individual dies while he or she is in the legal custody of the department and confined to a correctional facility located in this state, the coroner or medical examiner of the county where the death occurred shall perform an autopsy on the deceased individual. If the coroner or medical examiner who performs the autopsy determines that the individual's death may have been the result of any of the situations that would permit the district attorney to order an inquest under s. 979.04 (1), the coroner or medical examiner shall follow the procedures under s. 979.04 (2).
979.025(2) (2)Inmate confined in an institution in another state. If an individual dies while he or she is in the legal custody of the department and confined to a correctional facility in another state under a contract under s. 301.07, 301.21, or 302.25, the department shall have an autopsy performed by an appropriate authority in the other state or by the coroner or medical examiner of the county in which the circuit court is located that sentenced the individual to the custody of the department. If the coroner or medical examiner who performs the autopsy in this state determines that the individual's death may have been the result of any of the situations that would permit the district attorney to order an inquest under s. 979.04 (1), the coroner or medical examiner shall forward the results of the autopsy to the appropriate authority in the other state.
979.025(3) (3)Costs of an autopsy. The costs of an autopsy performed under sub. (1) or (2) shall be paid by the department.
979.025 History History: 2001 a. 16.
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2011-12 Wisconsin Statutes updated though 2013 Wis. Act 380 and all Supreme Court Orders entered before June 30, 2014. Published and certified under s. 35.18. Changes effective after July 1, 2014 are designated by NOTES. (Published 7-1-14)