Cook County Gives Unclaimed Dead Bodies a Two Week Notice (sort of…)

Under Recent Policy, Cook County Begins Donating Unclaimed Bodies after 2 Weeks
Cadavers that are left in morgue are given to medical research
Becky Schlikerman, William Lee and Ronnie Reese, Chicago Tribune (October 04, 2011)

 

Medical Examiner: Families Who Object to Body Donation Can Opt for Burial
Becky Schlikerman, Chicago Tribune (October 05, 2011)

There was a bit of a dead body tug-of-war this week in Chicago. According to an October 4 article in the Chicago Tribune, any dead body left unclaimed for two weeks in the Medical Examiner’s office will be handed over to the Illinois Anatomical Gift Association.

But wait, that’s not totally true.

According to an October 5 article in the Chicago Tribune, the Medical Examiner’s office will not donate any unclaimed body to the Anatomical Gift Association when the ME’s office knows that the next-of-kin cannot afford to have the dead body claimed and the next-of-kin want a burial.

Here is the bigger issue in this story: the overall costs for retrieving a body from a Medical Examiner’s office have become too expensive for many families.

We started covering this situation in 2009, when the Death Reference Desk launched. You can look over all those previous posts in the Death + the Economy section.

More and more county morgues across America are dealing with not only unclaimed dead bodies, but unclaimed dead bodies and families who know exactly where said dead body is located but can’t afford to do anything about it.

As a result, the Cook County story is hardly surprising.

Given the economic difficulties more and more American families face, this story represents not an anomaly but the future.

For more on Medical Examiners and their work, watch the fantastic Frontline documentary Post Mortem: Death Investigation in America

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