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FAQ

  1. After death occurs, where will the deceased be taken?
  2. Is it necessary for me to come to the center to identify the body?
  3. Is viewing allowed?
  4. Why is the office of the Clark County Medical Examiner involved?
  5. Will an autopsy be performed?
  6. How long will it take before the body is released by your office?
  7. What should I do now?
  8. Who has the responsibility for the arrangements of the deceased?
  9. Will an autopsy report be available?
  10. Do I have to pay for the autopsy performed?
  11. When will a death certificate be issued?
  12. Where can I obtain a copy of the death certificate?
  13. Will the personal effects be released to the family?
  14. Will it be possible to donate organs or tissue?

1. After death occurs, where will the deceased be taken?

The deceased will be taken to the office of the Medical Examiner located at: 900 W 13th Street, Vancouver, Washington, unless released to a funeral home by the investigator.

2. Is it necessary for me to come to the center to identify the body?

No. In the majority of the cases, visual identification is not necessary.

3. Is viewing allowed?

The facility is not designed with adequate space for viewing. Arrangements should be made for viewing at the funeral home.

4. Why is the office of the Clark County Medical Examiner involved?

State legislation (RCW 68.08.010) authorizes the medical examiner to determine the cause of death and the circumstances of death in certain situations.

These generally consist of unattended deaths, where the cause of death is not established or where the circumstances of the death indicate that death was caused by unnatural or unlawful means or death occurs under suspicious circumstances.

5. Will an autopsy be performed?

An autopsy will be performed when there is a need to establish a cause of death or in cases where criminal proceedings may follow. The Medical Examiner may not perform an autopsy if the cause of death can be adequately determined and is from natural causes.

6. How long will it take before the body is released by your office?

It generally takes approximately one or two days to complete our examination. In some cases, it may take slightly longer.

7. What should I do now?

You should select a funeral home and notify the funeral director that the death is being handled by the Office of the Clark County Medical Examiner. You should also notify us with name and phone number of the funeral home you have selected.

8. Who has the responsibility for the arrangements of the deceased?

According to state law (RCW 68.50.160) , an individual can make prearrangements, otherwise the next-of-kin, the guardian, or other responsible party.

9. Will an autopsy report be available?

Reports and records of autopsies or post-mortems shall be confidential except to the personal family representative or family member, attending physician, prosecuting attorney, or law enforcement agencies having jurisdiction, public health officials or the Department of Labor and Industries in cases which it has an interest.

The Medical Examiner or his representative may meet with the family of the deceased person upon request to discuss the findings of the autopsy.

10. Do I have to pay for the autopsy performed?

No.

11. When will a death certificate be issued?

A death certificate will be initiated by our office and collected by the funeral home. 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 autopsy. 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 to eight weeks. In such cases a death certificate will be issued with "pending further investigation" and will be amended once the cause of death is established.

12. Where can I obtain a copy of the death certificate?

A copy of the death certificate may be provided by the funeral director or may be obtained from the vital statistics section of Clark County Public Health, phone number (360) 397-8414, or the county in which the death occurred.

13. Will the personal effects be released to the family?

Yes, the personal effects can be released to the family with proper identification. These may also be released to the funeral home with the deceased.

14. Will it be possible to donate organs or tissue?

Yes. When the family wishes to make donations, members of the staff of the Clark County Medical Examiner will make the necessary arrangements.

These generally consist of transferring the deceased to the donor bank for removal of the organs or tissues, as desired by the family. Further information can be obtained from the regional donor bank by calling (800) 843-7793.

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Clark County Medical Examiner: Dennis J. Wickham, MD
Street Address: 900 West 13th Street, Vancouver, WA 98660
Main phone: (360) 397-8405 | FAX: (360) 397-6120
Telecommunications Relay Service: (800) 833-6388, then call (360) 397-2445
Responsible Elected Official: Board of Clark County Commissioners

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