Media Release Information

The information published on this page has been requested by media.

Postmortem examination reports are confidential in the State of Washington (RCW 68.50.105).  

Immediate family members may receive a copy upon request.  For family members of the deceased requesting information about obtaining postmortem reports, please call the Medical Examiner’s Office at (253) 798-6494 or email the office at PCMEDEXAM@piercecountywa.gov


Toxicology Testing

In many cases the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office (PCMEO) requests a toxicology analysis from the Washington State Toxicology Laboratory in Seattle, WA.  This typically involves sending a blood sample to the lab which then tests for selected medications as well as common drugs of abuse, and returns a report to our office.  This process typically takes approximately 12 to 14 weeks, but may take longer depending on the lab’s workload, staffing, and the complexity of the testing required.  For some cases, the pathologist may be able to complete the Cause and Manner of Death and issue an autopsy report prior to toxicology testing being complete.  In other cases, however, accurate determination of the Cause and Manner of Death, and finalization of the autopsy report, cannot be accomplished until the results of toxicology testing are known.  

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For media inquiries please email:
MedExamMediaInfo@piercecountywa.gov

Definitions
Cause of Death is used to indicate the medical cause of death, listing the disease(s) or injury(s) that caused death. Specific cause of death information is recorded on the death certificate and is entered into the Washington State Vital Statistics system.
Manner of Death is a statistical classification of deaths per the Washington State Department of Health into one of five pre-determined categories: Accident, Homicide, Natural, Suicide, and Undetermined (see definitions below).  It should be noted that Manner of Death is assigned for Public Health statistical purposes and is NOT a legal determination.  
Accident - is defined as a death other than natural, where there is no evidence of intent, i.e. unintentional.
Homicide - is defined as a death due to intentionally inflicted harm (explicit or implicit) of one person by another, including actions of grossly reckless behavior.
Natural - is defined as a death solely by organic disease. If natural death is hastened by injury (such as a fall), the manner of death will not be considered natural.
Pending - is a temporary designation for cause and/or manner when additional investigation, information and/or test results are required for certification. Pending is amended once all information and test results are received and reviewed by the pathologist.  
Suicide - is defined as a death as the result of a purposeful action, with intent (explicit or implicit) to end one’s life.
Undetermined - is the manner of death assigned when there is insufficient evidence or information to assign to accident, homicide, suicide or natural categories, or when 2 plausible manners are equally likely.
The Death Certificate is a document that specifies a person is legally deceased. It is created and issued by the Washington State Department of Health, Vital Records. For deaths that are investigated by the Medical Examiner, the Medical Examiner provides some of the information that is included on the Death Certificate (for example, the Cause and Manner of death) and signs the document. For deaths that are not investigated by the Medical Examiner, a non-Medical Examiner physician or other health care provider provides the information and signature. To obtain copies of a Death Certificate, please refer to the Washington State Department of Health website.