How do I obtain a copy of a death certificate?
Death Certificates are issued by the Grays Harbor County Public Health and Social Services Department, 2109 Sumner Avenue, Aberdeen, WA 98520. Please see http://www.healthygh.org/vitalrecords/ for more information.
How do I claim the personal effects of my loved one?
Personal effects held by the Coroner for safekeeping may released to the next-of-kin or someone they designate. Please contact our office to schedule a mutually agreeable time.
What about left-over prescriptions?
Our staff will collect medications only when the Coroner or Deputy Coroner responds to the scene.
The Hoquiam, Aberdeen, Ocean Shores, and Montesano police departments have secure drop boxes for disposal of medications.
Medications may be seized as evidence if a death triggers a criminal investigation..
Can I say no to an autopsy?
The Coroner has legal authority to decide if an autopsy will be performed. However, we certainly wish to respect the wishes and concerns of family members during this difficult time. We encourage you to call and discuss your particular situation with the Coroner, as part of his decision making process. If you object to an autopsy you should contact our office as soon as possible
at 360-537-6139 and advise us of your concern.
Why do an autopsy?
An autopsy is performed at the discretion of the Coroner in order to determine the cause and manner of death when the death may have been accidental, the result of a suicide or homicide, or otherwise falls under our jurisdiction. An autopsy can tell us what happened, and sometimes just as importantly, what didn’t happen.
An autopsy generates a legal document that can be used in court for insurance claims, to settle estates, and so on. Autopsy findings may also provide peace of mind to a family who may also have questions about the circumstances resulting in the death of their loved one.
Will an autopsy affect funeral preparations?
In most cases the results of an autopsy examination will not be visible or
noticeable during a funeral.
Will an autopsy delay the funeral?
Grays Harbor County does not have a pathologist on staff. Our office has contracts with board-certified forensic pathologists to perform autopsies. Depending on their workload, autopsies may be scheduled 24-72 hours after death.
Generally, as long as the body is positively identified, we can release the body for the funeral as soon as the autopsy is completed.
What if I want an autopsy, but the Coroner doesn't want to do one?
If the Coroner declines to do an autopsy the family may, at their own expense, pursue a private autopsy. Typically, this involves contacting a private pathology service and paying a fee for their service.
RCW 68.50.102 says “Any party by showing just cause may petition the court to have autopsy made and results thereof made known to said party at his or her own expense.”
What happens during the autopsy?
1. The examination of the body. Sometimes this reveals an injury or disease that can be seen such as an aneurysm, a fracture, or a gunshot wound. Some causes of death are not visible and may not be apparent at the time of autopsy.
2. The histology, or “slides.” When an autopsy is performed several small tissue samples are normally taken and sent out to be prepared, and then returned as slides for microscopic examination. This normally takes seven to ten working days to process. The doctor will view these slides for signs of infection, injury, or disease and include these findings in the autopsy report.
3. A toxicology report. In most cases we request a toxicology analysis from the Washington State Toxicology Lab in Seattle. This typically involves sending blood and urine samples to the lab which then screens the samples for selected medications as well as common drugs of abuse and returns a report to our office. This process currently takes approximately six to eight weeks, depending on the lab’s work load, staffing, and the complexity of the results.
How do I obtain a copy of an autopsy or toxicology report?
By State law, RCW 68.50.105, reports and records of autopsies or postmortems are confidential. The following persons may examine and obtain copies of any such report or record: The personal representative of the decedent as defined in RCW 11.02.005, any family member, the attending physician or advanced registered nurse practitioner, the prosecuting attorney or law enforcement agencies having jurisdiction, public health officials, the department of labor and industries in cases in which it has an interest under RCW 68.50.103, or the secretary of the department of social and health services or his or her designee in cases being reviewed under RCW 74.13.640.
(The term "family" means the surviving spouse, state-registered domestic partner, or any child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, brother, or sister of the decedent, or any person who was the guardian of the decedent at the time of death).
If you meet the criteria listed above, you may request a copy of the autopsy
report. This can be done in person, by phone, in writing, or by email. Written requests should include the name of the decedent, your relationship to the decedent, and your contact information to include where the report is to be mailed.
How much will the Coroner's services cost?
There is no charge for the services provided by our office. We are supported by county tax dollars.
What do I do with the residence?
The Coroner's Office has jurisdiction over the body and the decedent’s personal effects. The decedent’s next-of-kin or personal representative are responsible for security of the residence and other possessions.Where there is a criminal investigation law enforcement may take control of the death scene. Law enforcement officers on scene may be a resource in helping you with security questions and concerns.
Where can I get help with clean-up of the residence after a death?
The scene of a homicide, suicide, accident, or in deaths where decomposition has begun, may be contaminated with tissue, blood, or other bodily fluidsSpecial knowledge is required to safely handle bio-hazardous material; the companies that handle crime scene clean-up have the training to handle such scenes and all hazardous materials. For a listing of local and regional biohazard cleaning cervices, visit our Biohazard Cleaning Services page.
Where will the body be taken?
Grays Harbor County does not have a morgue. If there are no funeral arrangements in place, if the next-of-kin is not available or is unable to make a decision, the body will be removed to a local funeral home on a rotation list. The body may later be transferred to another funeral home, if the family wishes.Viewing of the body can be arranged later with your funeral home.