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The King County Medical Examiner’s Office (KCMEO) frequently receives requests for blood or tissue samples for the purpose of DNA (paternity) or genetic testing. During the course of a routine autopsy examination, the Medical Examiner collects blood and tissue samples to assist in determining cause and manner of death. Any remaining specimen samples will be stored for a minimum of six months following the completion of the case.

To release a sample for additional testing, a formal request must be made in writing by the decedent’s legal next of kin, personal representative, legal subpoena, or court order. The legal next of kin must sign an Authorization form in order for the Medical Examiner to release any samples. To maintain chain of custody, samples are released directly to the testing agency per their submission requirements.

Specimen samples available for testing

The most common sample type collected by KCMEO for DNA/paternity testing is a blood spot stored on an FTA card. An FTA card is made of special paper that preserves the integrity of a blood sample. Formalin fixed tissue and paraffin tissue blocks are also preserved and available for additional testing. Contact the laboratory or testing agency to determine the sample most appropriate for the specific testing being requested.

Requesting release of specimens

The legal next of kin or authorizing representative is responsible for making arrangements with a laboratory and for all costs associated with the additional testing including shipping costs and an administrative processing fee of $50.00 payable to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. To request samples be released:

  1. Contact the Administration staff at the Medical Examiner’s Office to confirm the samples available for testing.

  2. Make arrangements with a laboratory of your choice capable of performing the specific testing.

  3. Complete the Authorization for Release of Specimens form and return to KCMEO with a check or money order for processing, storage, retrieval and handling of the biological samples.