Section 2. There shall be an office of chief medical examiner under the supervision and control of the chief medical examiner, which shall be within the executive office of public safety. Costs and expenses of the office shall be paid by the commonwealth.
The chief medical examiner shall be a physician who is a diplomate of the American Board of Pathology with certification in anatomic pathology and subspecialty certification in forensic pathology, a graduate of an approved fellowship program in forensic medicine and licensed to practice medicine in the commonwealth and must reside within the commonwealth within six months after his appointment. The chief medical examiner shall be appointed by the governor for a term of five years from among a list of not less than three nominees recommended by the commission on medicolegal investigation. The governor may request additional nominees from the commission before making the appointment. The chief medical examiner’s salary and the salary of the deputy chief medical examiner shall be set by the governor and shall be commensurate with those of similar positions in comparable jurisdictions.
In the case of the death, removal, resignation or permanent incapacity of the chief medical examiner, the governor shall appoint a new chief medical examiner within six months.
The chief medical examiner, with the approval of the commission, shall establish a comprehensive system to deliver medicolegal investigative services in the commonwealth. The chief medical examiner shall appoint a deputy chief medical examiner who shall perform all of the duties of the chief medical examiner in case of incapacity or absence. The chief medical examiner may appoint such associate chief medical examiners as necessary.
The chief medical examiner may, subject to the approval of the secretary of public safety, apply for and accept on behalf of the commonwealth any funds, including grants, bequests, gifts or contributions, from any person for the improvement of the system of medicolegal investigative services in the commonwealth. Such funds shall be deposited in a separate account with the state treasurer and received by him on behalf of the commonwealth. All such funds may be expended by the chief medical examiner, in accordance with law.
District medical examiners shall be appointed by the chief medical examiner to conduct appropriate medicolegal investigations within the commonwealth. Such medical examiners shall serve in areas or districts as determined by the chief medical examiner and for terms of office at his discretion. Such medical examiners shall be responsible, under the direction of the chief medical examiner or the deputy medical examiner or an associate chief medical examiner, for the investigation and certification as to the cause of deaths under their jurisdiction. District medical examiners shall be licensed to practice medicine within the commonwealth and shall reside therein. In areas where such individuals are not available, the chief medical examiner or his representative may appoint other appropriately qualified individuals to conduct medicolegal investigations. Those medical examiners and associate medical examiners who are functioning under prior gubernatorial appointments will continue to do so for the remainder of their term in their present districts.
The office of the chief medical examiner shall have custody of all files, reports, photographs and other articles generated by all employees or vendors of the office.
The chief medical examiner, with approval of the secretary of the executive office of public safety, shall promulgate rules for the disclosure of autopsy reports, which shall not be deemed to be public records, to those who are legally entitled to receive them. If a medical examiner conducts an autopsy on a body of a deceased person who within six months before the date of death received services from a facility or program operated, contracted for, or licensed by the department of mental health, the office of the chief medical examiner shall provide a copy of the autopsy report, upon request, to the commissioner of mental health for the purpose of completing an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death, if a next of kin does not object thereto. The chief medical examiner, with the approval of said secretary, may establish fees for providing autopsy reports to those who are legally entitled to receive them. Neither the chief medical examiner, nor any employee of the office of the chief medical examiner, shall be subject to civil or criminal liability for lawfully disclosing an autopsy report or any part thereof, pursuant to the rules concerning the disclosure of autopsy reports promulgated under this section, to anyone legally entitled to receive it.