Clark County logo   Clark County Washington title  
Links to finding county services
Search the Web site
Clark County home page A to Z index Find it Links to other sites News releases Contact us Link to jobs

Medical Examiner

The system of death investigation in Clark County transitioned from a coroner system to a medical examiner system on Jan. 1, 1999. This change was initiated by the then-Board of County Commissioners, now called Board of County Councilors, and then approved by the voters of Clark County in the fall of 1996. The authority to make this change came in 1996 when the Washington State Legislature passed a statute (RCW 36.24.190) which provided that counties with a population of 250,000 or more could adopt a medical examiner system to replace the elected coroner system.

To be appointed medical examiner, the statute requires that the individual be either certified as a forensic pathologist (physician) by the American Board of Pathology, or be a pathologist eligible to take the examination for certification within one year of appointment and pass the exam within three years.

The primary role of the medical examiner is to investigate the deaths of individuals over which he/she has jurisdiction; the purpose of the investigation is to determine the cause of death. The types of deaths which the medical examiner has jurisdiction over include those resulting from:

  • homicide
  • accident
  • suicide
  • deaths from unknown or obscure causes
  • deaths while in jail or prison
  • deaths under suspicious or unusual circumstances
  • deaths constituting a threat to the public health

The investigation is usually performed in conjunction with a police agency and includes collecting information concerning the circumstances surrounding the death and obtaining the medical and social history of the deceased. The autopsy is a test used by the pathologist to identify injuries and diseases and to collect specimens for toxicology. An autopsy is required in many cases and is used in conjunction with the investigation to determine the cause of death. Medical-legal Death Investigation and Autopsy: Answers for families and friends (PDF 54KB) is provided by the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME).

The medical examiner is also responsible for initiating and signing death certificates of individuals when jurisdiction over the deceased is assumed. The medical examiner formulates an opinion as to the manner of death (homicide, suicide, accident, natural, or undetermined). Death certificates are completed by the funeral home and filed with Vital Records.  For information on obtaining a death certificate contact Vital Records.

The office provides services as needed seven days a week.


top of page

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 County Councilors

Clark County Home | Find It! | A-Z Index | News Releases | Jobs | Contact Us

For questions or comments regarding the Clark County Web site:

© 2008 Clark County Washington | Disclaimer and legal notice | Health Information Privacy Notice