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Disposition authorization

King County requires, by King County code 2.35A.100, that the King County Medical Examiner review all deaths. This regulation went into effect on January 1, 2008 in order to prevent destruction of evidence in death investigations. This code requires that all King County deaths be reported to and receive authorization from the Medical Examiner prior to releasing the body for disposition, regardless of where disposition is to occur.

We owe it to families to be able to share what happened to their loved one. We do not want suspicious or accidental deaths to go uninvestigated or unaccounted for.

How the program works

The KCMEO reviews all deaths that occur in King County. Before final approval of a death certificate, the Disposition Authorization (DA) program reviews each cause of death identified on the death certificate. This review verifies that the cause (what the person died from) and manner (natural, homicide, suicide, accident or undetermined) do not indicate the need to assume investigative jurisdiction. Deaths that fall within the jurisdiction of the KCME include accidental deaths, homicides, and suicides. If an unnatural death is discovered before the body is buried or cremated, then law enforcement and KCME can conduct an investigation.

Information for funeral homes

  • Complete a request form

  • Provide the death certificate

    Download an APPROVED Proof Copy of the death certificate from Washington Health and Life Event System (WHALES). If this is not included or incomplete, we will not be able to process the request.

    ➔ TIP: Rather than printing the death certificate, save a copy for an e-mail attachment.

  • Send the documents

    Send to the DA team at

    • For easier searching, please enter the name of the decedent in the “Subject" line as LAST NAME, FIRST NAME.
    • Attach the DA form and Proof copy of the death certificate. They may be sent together or as two separate documents.


Effective January 1, 2024, the Disposition Authorization fee increased to $100. In December 2023, the King County Council passed an ordinance raising the fee to better support the duties of the program.

If you do not already have a credit account with Public Health – Seattle & King County, contact the Medical Examiner’s office to discuss methods of payment or how to set up a credit account. If you have an account, which is also used for purchasing certified death certificates, King County will invoice your funeral home.

How long does it take to get a disposition authorization approved?

Requests are processed within a 24-hour period on business days (M-F), except holidays. Requests received after 2:30 pm are processed the next business day. If you have not received any information from the Medical Examiner's office within 24 hours of submission, please call the office. Please do not resubmit your request as this could potentially cause a double billing.

Possible delays when processing your request

The Medical Examiner's office makes every effort to process and approve all disposition requests as efficiently as possible.

To avoid a delay in processing please ensure the following:

Most important: All sections of the authorization form and death certificate are complete before submission to the Medical Examiner.

  • An underlying disease process or etiology is listed in tab 7 of WHALES of the death certificate. For example: "pneumonia" is not acceptable and needs further clarification. "Cardiac arrest" and "respiratory failure" are mechanisms of death, not causes of death. An underlying disease process must be listed.
  • All non-natural causes of death, including fractures, must be reported to and certified by the Medical Examiner.
  • Intracranial hemorrhages must be clarified with the specific bleed site and etiology, or whether the bleed was "spontaneous" and hypertensive.
  • Death certificates must meet the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) death certificate guidelines, available at the DOH website.

Reviews with the King County Indigent Remains Program

Applications for indigent requests require approval before the disposition authorization is granted. Please direct indigent application questions to the Indigent Remains Program at 206-731-3232, ext. 5.

How to tell when your request has been approved

The Medical Examiner's office will enter the disposition authorization number on tab 7 of the WHALES record in the "DA/comments" field of WHALES. Our office must input the DA # into the WHALES record before the death certificate can be filed by the King County Vital Records office.