Counties in Oregon Get Ready for New Death Inquiry Procedures

Counties in Oregon are scrambling to get ready for upcoming changes to how the state handles death investigations.

The Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office claims it is overwhelmed by the rising number of requests for autopsies and investigations into suspicious deaths. Since some counties haven’t employed a medical examiner in years, much of the laborious and time-consuming work will be delegated to them this summer.

Cf. Oregon Medical Examiner’s Division faces ‘worsening situation’ as bodies pile up and autopsies are canceled.

In addition, Fox 12 published a video in entitled “Oregon Counties Prepare for Death Inquiry Changes.”

YouTube video

Dr. Teresa Everson, Multnomah County’s Interim Deputy Health Officer, said, “That’s one of the new things for us, hiring a physician to serve as our county medical examiner.”

According to Everson, the county learned of the changes in February, prompting a flurry of activity as officials prepared to assume responsibility for the task of establishing the reasons for deaths, signing death certificates, and conducting physical examinations of hundreds of bodies annually.

This comes at a time when the county has seen an increase in the number of deaths that have required in-depth inquiries.

You may view the post that Opa001 made on Twitter in which he wrote: Oregon counties prepare for changes to death investigations

Since 2019, the number of deaths assigned to death investigators has increased by over 40%, and the number of cases requiring investigators to respond to death scenes has increased by 75%, according to county data.

Everson suggests that COVID-19 may be responsible for some of the increase. Substance abuse is also a major contributor.

β€œWe’re seeing a year-over-year increase in overdose deaths, typically tied to fentanyl, many of them are polysubstance,” Everson said.

The county health department estimates that they will need to hire at least three additional people to handle the extra workload, including a part-time physician to act as the county medical examiner. The county estimates a minimum of $430,000 in new funding for the program and may need even more to pay for additional support workers.

Counties in Oregon Get Ready for New Death Inquiry Procedures

Fees to keep using the state morgue as a storage facility for corpses are another possibility. Where exactly much of that cash will come from remains unclear.

β€œThe timing is a bit of a challenge. We did have time to at least make a request for the physician piece of this, so we already have in place funding for a part-time physician to do this medical examiner death certification piece, but we are still exploring internal options for funding,” Everson said.

Autopsies and special instances, such as homicides or the deaths of minors or newborns, will still fall under the purview of the state medical examiner. Specifics to establish case-by-case rules are still being worked out.

β€œThat’s part of what’s been developing over the past few months, what’s that threshold for what will come to us and what will still go to the state,” said Everson.

The state medical examiner’s office claims the alterations will allow its forensic pathologists to devote more attention to the most significant deaths, which are frequently associated with criminal activity.

The objective is to streamline the process of collecting data on all deaths in order to better serve law enforcement, prosecutors, and the bereaved.

If you want to learn more about Oregon, check out the following resources:

β€œThere’s information that families may need from us, that attorneys may need from us, that folks might need from us on a more time-sensitive basis and we’re looking to make sure there is no disruption in that service that we provide to the public.”

To prepare for the upcoming changes in July, Multnomah County is joined by around a dozen other counties in a similar bind.

Jessa Martin

Jessa Martin is an accomplished news writer with a passion for keeping the community informed about the latest events and happenings in Hillsboro and the surrounding areas. With a keen eye for detail and a knack for storytelling, Jessa has become a go-to source for breaking news and in-depth reporting.As a news writer for, Jessa covers a wide range of topics, from local politics and government to community events and human interest stories. Their writing is always informative, insightful, and engaging, offering readers a deeper understanding of the issues that matter most to the people of Hillsboro.

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