Unclaimed Corpse Indicator
In 2009, where thirty three percent of adults were unemployed at the time, at the height of the financial crisis when non-farm payrolls were falling by more than half a million a month, Detroit logged a massive increase in the number of unclaimed bodies at its morgue. State payouts for burials nearly doubled over a two month period compared to just a year earlier. The concept is that because of high funeral costs, family members never claim the bodies of the deceased so the state will pay for costs.
In Michigan, where the state helps pay for indigent burials, the number of payments has risen throughout the year. From May to June, alone, they soared from five hundred fifty five to one thousand and sixty seven. In October and November, the state averaged one thousand two hundred sixty eight ...view middle of the document...
Since the budget year that started October first, the morgue has disposed of twenty seven unclaimed bodies. Burials for the unclaimed cost seven hundred and fifty dollars each and are done in volume. The state chips in $585 for each one, and getting the money can take weeks or even months as the state goes through its own fiscal crisis.
Detroit is not alone in the problem. In Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, the medical examiner's office waived 93,210 dollars in fees for indigent burials in 2008 and is on track to waive 120,000 dollars in fees this year. In Los Angeles County, California, bodies not claimed by next of kin can be cremated after thirty days. The coroner's office cremated seven hundred and eight bodies last year. This year's total was seven hundred and eleven as of December seventeenth.
Figures from the state Department of Human Services show that between January first and July thirty-first , funeral providers statewide cremated a hundred and forty four bodies that were unclaimed by families or friends. If the rate holds, Oregon will have paid for the disposition of two hundred forty six people in 2009, thirteen more than the high set in 2003. Among the states, only Oregon pays to cremate the unclaimed dead through a special fund that collects six dollars out of the twenty dollar fee that funeral providers pay to register a death with the state. The most the state will pay a funeral provider is four hundred fifty dollars for each body, although the providers rarely get the maximum amount. The other forty nine states pay for disposition with tax dollars from the state or, far more frequently, from the county. As a result, jurisdictions large and small nationwide are running out of money to handle unclaimed bodies.
Economic distress has led some families to consider the option of whole-body donation, a business that in the past three to five years has come out of the shadows to advertise itself as an opportunity to contribute to medical research.