Chapter 2.06



2.06.010    Appointment.

2.06.020    Duties – Administrative.

2.06.030    Duties – Specific.

2.06.040    Personal property – Sheriff’s duty.

2.06.050    Personal property – Filing of duplicate lists.

2.06.060    Personal property – Delivery to county treasurer.

2.06.070    Required notice.

2.06.080    Reference to county coroner.

2.06.090    Medical examiner advisory council.


2.06.100    Administration of article.

2.06.110    Acceptance of responsibility.

2.06.120    Provision of cremation at county expense.

2.06.130    Disposition of remains.

2.06.140    Payment for cremation of remains.

Article I. Duties and Administration

2.06.010 Appointment.

The county medical examiner shall be appointed by the county executive from applicants approved by the Whatcom County Medical Society and the county sheriff and shall be confirmed by the county council. The medical examiner shall have an M.D. or D.O. degree and be licensed to practice medicine in the state of Washington. (Ord. 79-24 § 1).

2.06.020 Duties – Administrative.

The medical examiner shall be responsible for the administration and staffing of the office, should same become necessary. (Ord. 92-42 (part); Ord. 79-24 § 2).

2.06.030 Duties – Specific.

The medical examiner shall assume jurisdiction over human remains, perform autopsies, and perform such other functions as are authorized by RCW Chapter 68.09 except for those duties and functions relating to the personal property of the deceased as delineated by RCW 68.08.040 and RCW 36.24.130, and shall be authorized to institute such other procedures and/or policies to insure investigation into the death of persons coming under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner, including, but not limited to, the holding of an inquest pursuant to RCW Chapter 36.24 and other relevant statutes in the state of Washington. (Ord. 79-24 § 3).

2.06.040 Personal property – Sheriff’s duty.

The duties and functions relating to the personal property of the deceased referred to above shall be the responsibility of the Whatcom County sheriff’s office or its designee. Nothing contained in this chapter shall alter the duties as outlined by state law of the county treasurer in regards to such personal property. (Ord. 91-067; Ord. 79-24 § 4).

2.06.050 Personal property – Filing of duplicate lists.

Duplicate lists of all jewelry, moneys, papers and other personal property of the deceased shall be made immediately upon finding the same by the county sheriff. The original of such lists shall be kept as a public record at the sheriff’s office and the duplicate thereof shall be forthwith duly certified to by the sheriff and filed with the county auditor. (Ord. 79-24 § 5).

2.06.060 Personal property – Delivery to county treasurer.

The county sheriff must, within 30 days after the inquest upon a dead body, deliver to the county treasurer any money or other property which may be found upon the body, unless such money or other property is claimed in the meantime by the legal representatives of the deceased. If he fails to do so, the treasurer may proceed against the county sheriff to recover the same by civil action in the name of the county. (Ord. 79-24 § 6).

2.06.070 Required notice.

The notice required by RCW 68.08.020 shall be given to the medical examiner. (Ord. 79-24 § 7).

2.06.080 Reference to county coroner.

State laws which apply or refer to the office of county coroner shall hereafter apply to the medical examiner, and the medical examiner shall have those powers, duties, and functions as provided by state law except as otherwise provided for in this chapter. (Ord. 79-24 § 8).

2.06.090 Medical examiner advisory council.

A. The Whatcom County medical examiner advisory council is hereby formed for the following purposes:

1. To review the medical examiner’s policies and procedures;

2. To review the performance of the medical examiner and make annual written reports to the county council and executive;

3. To report to the county and medical examiner the various jurisdictional needs for the medical examiner function.

B. The advisory council shall be comprised of the following members:

1. Whatcom County executive;

2. Whatcom County prosecuting attorney;

3. Whatcom County sheriff;

4. Whatcom County health officer;

5. Board-certified forensic pathologist;

6. City of Bellingham police chief;

7. Police chief of another city in Whatcom County.

C. The board-certified forensic pathologist member shall be recommended by the medical examiner and approved by the medical examiner advisory council membership. The police chief position from a city other than Bellingham shall be selected by the cities’ police chiefs and rotated periodically.

D. The advisory council shall meet at least once a year to review the medical examiner function. A majority of five members of the council may call for a special meeting, if necessary. (Ord. 2016-021 Exh. A; Ord. 92-42 (part)).

Article II. Disposition of
Indigent Human Remains

2.06.100 Administration of article.

The county medical examiner, as provided in RCW 68.50.010, shall have responsibility for accepting jurisdiction for the remains of a person that are unclaimed by friends or relatives. Whenever friends, a church organization or appropriate relatives, who have legal responsibility for disposing of the remains, as identified in RCW 68.50.160, claim the body, Whatcom County will not accept jurisdiction or financial responsibility for disposition. (Ord. 93-053 § 1).

2.06.110 Acceptance of responsibility.

The county medical examiner, with assistance from the county sheriff’s department and/or other law enforcement agencies shall attempt to notify friends, relatives or religious organizations that may desire to claim the remains of an unclaimed body and provide for disposition. If no friends, relatives or church organization can be found to claim the body, the medical examiner shall accept jurisdiction. (Ord. 93-053 § 2).

2.06.120 Provision of cremation at county expense.

The county medical examiner, after accepting jurisdiction for indigent unclaimed human remains, shall arrange for the transportation and cremation of such remains at county expense. (Ord. 93-053 § 3).

2.06.130 Disposition of remains.

The county medical examiner shall provide for the disposition of the ashes of the cremated indigent remains in a common vault designed for such or may release them to friends or relatives. (Ord. 93-053 § 4).

2.06.140 Payment for cremation of remains.

Whenever the medical examiner accepts jurisdiction of unclaimed indigent human remains and authorizes cremation, the organization conducting the cremation shall bill the medical examiner, who will approve the payment and forward the invoice to the county auditor for warrant preparation. (Ord. 93-053 § 5).