County working on preliminary report of June 2021 heat wave deaths; focusing on housing type, cooling, demographics

July 8, 2021

As of July 7, the Multnomah County Medical Examiner Program has identified 71 deaths in which the suspected cause of death is hyperthermia. Of those, 46 have been formally ruled hyperthermia deaths.

The Multnomah County Medical Examiner and the Multnomah County Health Officer have begun work on an initial report on the demographics, type of housing, geographic location and cooling circumstances around the deaths of people who were confirmed to have succumbed to hyperthermia during the June 2021 heat wave.

Many members of the media have requested the names and addresses of the people who died to help tell the stories of their lives and to better understand the circumstances of their deaths. The County agrees that more information can help both account for the deaths and drive future policies and planning. Some suspected deaths are pending further testing and many require additional toxicology and investigation. Rather than wait months for a final conclusion, the County is pressing ahead to provide an analysis of what we know now. 

We are prioritizing this analysis and hope to share that report with the public early next week.

The County has declined to disclose the names and addresses of those who died. Under Oregon law, Medical Examiner records are confidential and the County considers individual death data as essentially protected health information, with rare exceptions.

Confidentiality is a key component of learning the cause and manner of death. Death investigators from the Medical Examiners Program rely heavily on the cooperation of next of kin, friends and acquaintances in conducting their death investigations, and that cooperation is founded on an expectation of privacy. Providing exact addresses for people who have died can quickly identify the individual who died. The MEs office has also received reports from families for whom disclosure of that address made the deceased’s property vulnerable to theft.

The County is committed to creating  a thorough analysis that includes demographic data, housing type, access to cooling and cooling type, and geographic information will provide that on an expedited timeline.