The Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office has received national accreditation, ranking it among the best death investigation facilities in the United States.
"This certification is a measure of quality assurance," said Dr. Thomas B. Clark III, Pierce County's chief medical examiner. "The information we discover is used to track disease trends, ensure public safety and close criminal cases. The national accreditation signifies that we are performing at high national standards."
Dr. Clark's office is among approximately 70 in the nation to receive accreditation by the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME).
"Most forensic autopsy facilities in the United States are not NAME-certified," said Dr. Clark, a South Carolina native who was hired by County Executive Pat McCarthy in May 2010. "This certification sets us apart. I'm proud of the work our 17-member staff did to reach these rigorous standards."
The accreditation process involves maintaining policies in 48 areas, including disaster response, investigative practices, organ donation, toxicology and record keeping. The NAME accreditation, which lasts five years, shows that Pierce County is meeting national standards in the day to day investigation of unnatural and unlawful deaths.
"It's a major accomplishment that shows we have a good death investigation system," said Sharon Johnson, the office's administrative program manager who has worked there for 18 years. "Dr. Clark played a huge part in receiving this accreditation. He is interested in creating and maintaining strong standards."
The Pierce County Medical Examiner's office operates under the authority of Washington state law to determine the cause and manner of death in certain circumstances. Those include violent or otherwise unnatural deaths as well as deaths of apparent natural causes that occur suddenly or under suspicious or unexplained circumstances.
In 2011 the Pierce County Medical Examiner's office investigated 1,872 deaths, which is one third of the total deaths in Pierce County.
Dr. Thomas B. Clark III, Pierce County Medical Examiner
Hunter George, Pierce County Communications director