No. In the majority of cases, visual identification is not necessary. Additionally, the morgue portion of the medical examiner office is closed to the public. Should assistance with identification be necessary, an investigator will contact the appropriate party.
State law (RCW 68.08.010) authorizes the medical examiner to determine the cause and investigate circumstances of death in certain situations.
These generally consist of deaths without recent medical care, when the cause of death is not established, when the circumstances of death indicate death was caused by unnatural or unlawful means, or death occurs under suspicious circumstances.
An autopsy is performed at the discretion of the medical examiner and when required by law. The autopsy is only one part of a complete death investigation to help explain the circumstances of death.
If you are the legal next of kin or designee, you should select a funeral home and notify the funeral director that the death certificate is being signed by the Clark County Medical Examiner. Then please call us with the name and phone number of the funeral home you have selected.
Reports and records of autopsies and other examinations, shall be confidential except to the: personal family representative or family member; attending physician or advanced registered nurse practitioner; prosecuting attorney or law enforcement agencies having jurisdiction; public health officials; or Department of Labor and Industries, for cases in which it has an interest, or the secretary of the department of children, youth, and families.
The funeral director is responsible for filing the completed death certificate with Vital Records at Clark County Public Health and will provide the next-of-kin with certified copies upon request.
Frequently, an exact cause or manner of death is not determined at the completion of the postmortem examination. Special laboratory testing or investigation may need to be performed and, depending on the complexity, such tests may not be available for up to six months. In such cases, a death certificate will be issued with "pending" and amended once the cause of death is established.
The personal effects are transferred with the decedent to the funeral home. In unusual situations subject to staff availability, the personal effects can be released to the family with proper identification.