2016 Medical Examiner Annual Report


2016 Medical Examiner Annual Report

The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s annual report is now complete and attached, it will also be available to view along with previous years’ annual reports on the Medical Examiner web page at http://www.spokanecounty.org/3003/Annual-Reports.

·        Please note: The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office is a separate department in Spokane County, and not under the supervision or direction of the Spokane Police Department, the Washington State Patrol, or the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.  The Medical Examiner’s Office is an independent entity.

The determination of manner of death (natural, homicide, suicide, accident, or undetermined) is for purposes of the death certificate, only.  The Medical Examiner criteria for manner of death is not the same as the prosecutor’s legal determination.  For example, most motor vehicle deaths are classified as “accident” by the Medical Examiner.  The prosecutor may pursue a legal charge of “vehicular homicide”,  if the legal definition is met.  Medical Examiner manner of death certification is for generation of public health data.  Any determination by the Medical Examiner of suicide,  accident or homicide in no way limits the ability of law enforcement to investigate to whatever extent they deem appropriate or necessary.

The death certificate is a Washington State Health Department document, not a medical examiner or coroner document.  The death certification process includes classification of the manner of death (Natural, Accident, Suicide, Homicide, or Undetermined), intended to describe the action associated with a death, if any, for public health department vital statistics purposes.  In the vast majority of deaths, Washington State law directs the physician last in attendance to certify the death.  The Medical Examiners assist the community and the Health Department with death certifications in some of the deaths reported to the Office of the Medical Examiner, most often in cases of unnatural death.  The manner of death as used by the Office of the Medical Examiner does not address presence or absence of intent, culpability or justification of any action associated with a death.   Manner of death classification was added to the death certificate by public health officials in 1910 to help clarify the circumstances of death and how an injury causing death occurred, assisting nosologists who code and classify cause-of-death information for statistical purposes.


·        Total autopsies for the Spokane County Medical Examiner increased 14% since 2014 and total Spokane County deaths reported to the Spokane County Medical Examiner increased 8 %

·        Accidental Drug Overdoses in 2016 in Spokane County totaled 115, an increase of 33 over 2015

Ø The most common opioids listed as causing or contributing to accidental overdose were

§  Oxycodone (in 17 deaths)

§  Hydrocodone (in 16 deaths)

§  Morphine (in 15 deaths)

§  Methadone (in 15 deaths)

§  Benzodiazepines (in 23 deaths) – though benzodiazepines are not opioids they are included with the opioids as national data which indicates that benzodiazepines are often seen in combination with opioids in prescription medication deaths.

·        Total Drug Overdose Deaths – in 2016 a total of 125 deaths had prescription/and or illicit drugs listed on the death certificate as causing or contributing to death. Of these 118 deaths had drugs listed as the primary cause of death.

Ø Drug overdoses causing or contributing to 125 deaths:

9 deaths            suicide

1 death              undetermined accident vs. suicide

115 deaths        accidents

Ø The most common illicit drugs causing or contributing to death were

§  Methamphetamine (in 49 deaths, an increase of 20 over 2015)

§   Heroin (in 25 deaths, an increase of 3 over 2015)

§   Cocaine (in 3 deaths, a decrease of 2 from 2015)

·        Homicides in 2015 in Spokane County totaled 25, a decrease of 1 from 2015

·        Vehicular deaths in Spokane County in 2015 totaled 41, a decrease of 15 from 2015

·        Suicide deaths in Spokane County in 2015 totaled 91, a decrease of 7 from 2015

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report a rise in the U.S. suicide rate, key findings are as follows:

•             From 1999 through 2014, the age-adjusted suicide rate in the United States increased 24%, from 10.5 to 13.0 per 100,000 population, with

the pace of increase greater after 2006.

•             Suicide rates increased from 1999 through 2014 for both males and females and for all ages 10–74.

•             The percent increase in suicide rates for females was greatest for those aged 10–14, and for males, those aged 45–64.

•             The most frequent suicide method in 2014 for males involved the use of firearms (55.4%), while poisoning was the most frequent method

for females (34.1%).

•             Percentages of suicides attributable to suffocation increased for both sexes between 1999 and 2014.

Here is a link to the original CDC National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) report: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db241.pdf

Alana Inks

Office Manager

Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office

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