King County Medical Examiner's Annual Report
The Medical Examiner’s Office 2017 Annual Report reflects the activities pertaining to the investigation of jurisdictional deaths in King County. This annual report presents detailed analyses of the different manners of death, as well as trends in homicides, traffic fatalities, and drug overdose deaths. While the report tends to depict the more violent types of death, it is worth noting that nearly 40% of Medical Examiner cases were classified as natural deaths.
In addition, data provided within this report helps shape Public Health policies designed to save lives by reducing preventable deaths. This report also documents the Medical Examiner’s role in support of life saving organ and tissue donations, see page 95 for further details.
Past annual reports
Data from the 2017 Overdose Death Report
Drug and alcohol use caused the deaths of 370 King County residents in 2017—an increase from 348 in 2016. Data from the 2017 Overdose Death Report describes drug and alcohol-caused deaths over the past decade investigated by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office (MEO). The report found that in 2017, heroin and opioids, including fentanyl, continue to be the most common drugs associated with fatal overdoses (69%) while the rate of deaths involving methamphetamine continue to increase sharply.
Overview of the King County Medical Examiner's Office
The purpose of the Medical Examiner's Office is to bring trained medical evaluation to the investigation of deaths that are of concern to the public health, safety, and welfare of the community.
The Medical Examiner's Office investigates sudden, violent, unexpected, and suspicious deaths that occur in King County.
Deaths that come under the jurisdiction of the Medical Examiner's Office include, but are not limited to, the following circumstances:
- Persons who die suddenly when in apparent good health and without medical attendance within thirty-six hours preceding death.
- Circumstances which indicate death was caused in part or entirely by unnatural or unlawful means.
- Suspicious circumstances.
- Unknown or obscure causes.
- Deaths caused by any violence whatsoever, whether the primary cause or any contributory factor in the death.
- Contagious disease.
- Unclaimed bodies.
In addition to determining the cause and manner of death, the office works to provide accurate identification of decedents under their jurisdiction, and to notify the next of kin. Each decedent is treated with dignity and respect, and families are supported with compassion, courtesy, and honest information to help them with their grief and to make appropriate arrangements.
The Medical Examiner's Office's professional staff of over 30 includes medical examiners (who are medical doctors specializing in the science of forensic pathology), medical investigators, autopsy assistants and administrative support staff. The Medical Examiner's Office has been continually accredited with the National Association of Medical Examiners since 1978.