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The role of the Medical Examiner

The purpose of the Medical Examiner's Office is to bring trained medical evaluation to the investigation of deaths that are of concern to the public health, safety, and welfare of the community.

The Medical Examiner's Office investigates sudden, violent, unexpected, and suspicious deaths that occur in King County.

Deaths that come under the jurisdiction of the Medical Examiner's Office include, but are not limited to, the following circumstances:

  • Persons who die suddenly when in apparent good health and without medical attendance within thirty-six hours preceding death
  • Circumstances which indicate death was caused in part or entirely by unnatural or unlawful means
  • Suspicious circumstances
  • Unknown or obscure causes
  • Deaths caused by any violence whatsoever, whether the primary cause or any contributory factor in the death
  • Contagious disease
  • Unclaimed bodies

In addition to determining the cause and manner of death, the office works to provide accurate identification of decedents under their jurisdiction, and to notify the next of kin. Each decedent is treated with dignity and respect, and families are supported with compassion, courtesy, and honest information to help them with their grief and to make appropriate arrangements.

The Medical Examiner's Office's professional staff of over 40 includes medical examiners (who are medical doctors specializing in the science of forensic pathology), medical investigators, autopsy technicians, Real-Time Drug Surveillance Program staff, and administrative support staff. The Medical Examiner's Office has been continually accredited with the National Association of Medical Examiners since 1978.