When someone dies in the District of Columbia, and no family member or friend comes forward to claim the body within fifteen (15) days after it is received at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), OCME arranges for cremation. This is known as “public disposition.”
Once a year, usually on a Saturday in the autumn, OCME holds a memorial service for the unclaimed, and their ashes (“cremains”) are buried at a local cemetery. Family, friends, and the public are invited to attend the memorial service.
Prior to the annual memorial service, cremains may be claimed by contacting OCME. Cremains cannot be retrieved once buried in the OCME common gravesite.
Once remains are disposed of from our facility via the Public Disposition Process, decedent remains may be claimed by the following process:
1. The individual who intends to claim the remains MUST reimburse the District of Columbia in the amount of $485 USD via a cashier’s check or money order
2. The cashier’s check or money order must be made payable to the DC Treasurer
3. The individual who intends to claim the remains MUST deliver the cashier’s check or money order via US postal mail or in person to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
4. Once payment and written request are received, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will provide the individual with an Authorization Letter and Invoice
5. Once the Authorization Letter and Invoice are received, the individual should then contact the contracted Funeral Home (listed in the Authorization Letter) to make an appointment to collect the ashes.
6. OCME and the contracted Funeral Home cannot provide Death Certificates. A Death Certificate can only be obtained from DC Health’s Vital Records Department:
DC Department of Health
899 North Capital Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002