What do you see as the duties required of the county coroner?
(The Revised Code of Washington) states that the coroner's main responsibility is for determining manner and cause of death is sudden and unexpected deaths that occur in the county in which (the coroner) was elected. To determine the cause of death would involve scene investigation, witness' interviews, medical records, physician opinions, toxicology, body examinations and, if need be, an autopsy.
The law requires the coroner to locate and notify next of kin, (look after) the disposition or release of (a) deceased person's body, take custody of property found on the deceased and return it to rightful heirs and complete the death certificate. The data on the death certificate aids survivors in insurance and pension claims, legal claims, probate, civil actions and even prosecution.
The coroner recognizes a responsibility to Walla Walla County to provide the first level of support to survivors. It's the coroner's duty to help families of the deceased to find counseling and support through the health care community.
One of the requirements of your job will be to write a budget which will have to be approved by the county commissioners. How much experience have you had writing budgets?
(The) coroner's budgets are always challenging in all parts of the state in every county. I have been on the board of directors of Water District No. 14. I understand I am required to live within the bottom line of the budget. I know line item amounts can be moved to higher priority items.
Which deaths do you feel a coroner is required to investigate?
(Revised Code of Washington) 68.50.010 states the coroner's jurisdiction over remains. It is only the coroner that can make the decision on whether he or she will assume jurisdiction over a case, not the fire department or law enforcement. The Washington Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners will be introducing a bill in the 2011 legislation that states that all deaths in the county has to be reported to the coroner and then he or she will make the determination of jurisdiction. The coroners are required to investigate sudden unexpected, violent, suspicious or unnatural deaths.
What are your thoughts on confiscating medications found in the home of a deceased person? Is this necessary? Why?
My office (would) only take medications of a deceased person. There are several reasons for this: 1) To compare the medications that were prescribed with the amount left in the bottle. The only way to do this is by counting what's left in the bottles. This is done to account for all medications that the deceased was on at the time of death. 2) To compile a list of medications so the (toxicology) lab knows what the deceased was prescribed and the amounts that were prescribed. 3) (To prevent) any chance that medications of the deceased could be abused by someone in the household.
All other medications in the household would be inventoried and documented. This would include over-the-counter drugs.
Under what circumstances do you feel an autopsy is justified?
(The) general rule is if the coroner, upon completing his (or) her investigation, cannot classify a death (as) natural, suicide, accident or homicide, then an autopsy needs to be ordered. Before ordering an autopsy, (I would) always ask "Will it make a difference?" If it will make a significant difference to the family, the prosecuting attorney or an insurance carrier, (then I would) order it done.