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Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

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OCME Customers Served

Decedent Population

  • The OCME investigates about 3,100 human deaths per year of which about 1,600 are accepted as medical examiner cases. The deaths investigated involve District residents, commuters, national and international travelers and any other persons that die within District boundaries.

District Residents and Next of Kin

  • The OCME serves the District population of 599,657 people and their families/friends, as well as the next of kin located in the DC metropolitan area, nationally and internally.
  • The OCME provides timely transport of decedents from scenes including: homes/buildings, medical facilities and the street.
  • The OCME facilitates the identification and body release processes for the next of kin or others authorized for this purpose, which often includes interaction with embassies.
  • The OCME provides timely death certification for next of kin, law enforcement, and others authorized for receipt of such information.
  • The OCME provides external examination and autopsy reports to next of kin, law enforcement, and others authorized for receipt of such information.
  • The OCME provides proof of death to next of kin for legal, insurance, and other purposes.
  • The OCME approves all cremation request in the District of Columbia.
  • The OCME publicly disposes of all remains that are unclaimed whether identified or unidentified.

Funeral Homes

  • The OCME serves funeral homes in the DC Metropolitan area and throughout the nation.
  • Next of kin, and others that have authority to claim a decedent, authorize the release of a decedent from OCME to their funeral home of choice.
  • The OCME provides certification of the cause and manner of death per a death certification to the funeral home. The funeral home officially files this certificate with the Department of Health’s Vital Records Division.

Law Enforcement

  • OCME Provides information regarding decedent deaths, evidentiary materials, and access to view autopsies to law enforcement.
  • OCME Medical Examiners and Forensic Toxicologists provide expert testimony and participate in legal proceedings in the District, Maryland, and Virginia court systems.
  • The OCME sponsors courses in forensic pathology and toxicology to the Metropolitan Police Department (via Homicide School), the US Department of State and the US Department of Justice on an ongoing basis.
  • The Forensic Toxicology Laboratory performs toxicological analyses. In addition, provides interpretive services and expert testimony, provides statistical information on a variety of drug and alcohol related matters on medical examiner cases, for the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), Public Defenders Services, United States Attorney’s Office, United States Park Police, Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), US Capitol Police, US Secret Service, and Office of Victims Services.

District Nursing/ Group Homes, Hospices and Hospitals

  • The OCME takes death reports from nursing and group homes, hospices and hospitals and accepts jurisdiction for those decedents that fall within its statutory authority. The OCME also provides storage and publicly dispose of remains when these entities are unable to store of dispose of their own human remains. 

Medical Schools and Universities

  • The OCME provides a reaching environment for medical school students and pathology residents. The OCME also provides internship opportunities for university students in the fields of forensic pathology, medicolegal investigations, forensic science, toxicology, and mortuary services. OCME staff also teaches various courses to area medical school students and university students in forensic science programs.

Research Institutions

  • The OCME partners with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to allow collection of specimens for research at the request and with the permission of the next of kin.

District of Columbia Public Schools

  • The OCME regularly participates in District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) career fairs, workshops, and other events in order to introduce District students to the fields of forensic pathology, medicolegal investigations, toxicology, forensic science, and mortuary science.

District Government Agencies & DC City Council

  • The OCME responds to informational and statistical requests from the Mayor and City Administrator’s Office; other District agencies; and the DC City Council.
  • The OCME provides health information to the Department of Health’s Public Laboratory (i.e., deaths involving contagious diseases).
  • The OCME coordinates mass fatality incident management information with the DOH, MPD, HSEMA, and other District agencies.

Media & General Public

  • The OCME provides “cause and manner of death” information and statistical information to media outlets upon request. This information DOES NOT include autopsy reports, toxicological findings or other decedent demographic information. Only non-identifying statistical data and the actual “cause and manner of death” are provided.
  • The OCME responds to general inquiries from the public regarding agency operations and statistical data. The OCME posts on its website FAQs about medical examiner processes, as well as agency and fatality review annual reports from 2002 to the most recently published. The agency’s policies and procedures are also posted.