Members of the Virginia General Assembly recognize the need to improve our understanding of injuries and deaths to Virginia’s older and vulnerable adults and to find ways to effectively respond to these problems. Beginning July 1, 2015, communities throughout the Commonwealth are encouraged to convene and implement adult fatality review teams with a new law to govern and protect these reviews. Central components of the law are:
Description of which cases can be reviewed:
- Adult Fatality Review Teams may review the death of any person age 60 years or older, or any adult age 18 years or older who is incapacitated and who meets one of the following criteria for review:
- was the subject of an adult protective services or law-enforcement investigation
- whose death was due to abuse, neglect, or exploitation or acts suggesting abuse, neglect, or exploitation
- whose death came under the jurisdiction of or was investigated by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner as occurring in any suspicious, unusual, or unnatural manner, pursuant to § 32.1-283
Identification of the professions, agencies, and organizations which should constitute the members of the Team:
- Adult protective services
- Commonwealth’s Attorney
- Community services board or other local mental health agency
- Law enforcement
- Local area agency on aging or other department representing the interests of the elderly and/or disabled
- Local or district health department
- Medical examiner
- Social services
- Additional persons as may be appointed to serve by the chair of the local or regional team, including but not limited to:
- Advocacy or service organizations for elderly and/or disabled populations
- Centers for independent living
- Emergency medical services personnel
- Experts in forensic medicine and pathology
- Funeral services providers
- Health care professionals specializing in geriatric care or care of incapacitated adults
- Local bar
- Local human services agencies
- Long-term care providers
- Long-term care ombudsmen
Provisions to ensure the confidentiality and protection of Team reviews:
— Team records are exempt from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act and cannot otherwise be disclosed or subpoenaed.
— No member or participant is required to make any statement as to what transpired during the review or what information was collected during the review.
— Portions of meetings in which individual cases are discussed by the team are closed.
— All members and participants must execute a sworn statement to honor the confidentiality of the information, records, discussions and opinions disclosed during any closed meeting to review a specific death.
— Members and participants providing information, as well as their agents and employees, are immune from civil liability for any act or omission made in connection with participation in an adult fatality review, unless such act or omission was the result of gross negligence or willful misconduct.
Clarification of how information from reviews may be shared:
— Each team must establish local rules and procedures prior to its first case review.
— Review may be conducted after any criminal investigations or prosecutions connected with the death are completed, or prior to a completed investigation with permission from the Commonwealth’s Attorney.
— Upon the conclusion of the fatality review, all information and records concerning the victim and the family must be returned to the originating agency or destroyed.
— Findings of the team may be disclosed or published in statistical or other form which does not identify individual decedents or other persons involved in the case.
For more information about Adult Fatality Review in Virginia:
Virginia Powell , PhD
Virginia Department of Health, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner