Emails from across the spectrum: Unclaimed Cremated Remains

Ed Horn's picture

Dear All,


In the February is sue of Preneed Perspective I dealt with th is subject.  It is a problem throughout North America but larger here in the US than Canada but larger still in Mexico .  However, even in Mexico with its difficult economies, they do not shirk their duties to provide a recordation of the death and provide for the unclaimed dead. 


Of course at a time like th is William Gladstone is probably rolling in h is (very proper) grave.  We are continually proving, as he said; we can measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people.  Th is is not a Republican or Democratic is sue.  Th is is a sign of our changing times. 






Daniel M. Isard




The Foresight Companies, LLC


6520 North 7th Street


Suite 200


Phoenix   85014 , AZ


602-274-6464 phone


602-277-6722 fax







Not sure what all is happening around the country, but I can tell you here in the Tidewater, VA. area the Medical Examiners are no longer accepting unclaimed bodies. The chief M.E. of the Commonwealth of VA. has is sued an order that any unclaimed body be taken to a local funeral home and placed into refrigeration until the local police and sheriff's departments have completed their "homework" trying to locate the next of kin. If no NOK can be located, the local funeral home is to apply to that city's social service department for payment of $500 to CREMATE and then d is pose of the cremated remains of the unclaimed body.


A local removal service here in the area indicated that in 2009, there were a minimum of 10-15 unclaimed bodies per month they were requested to remove for the Medical Examiner.


In my humble opinion, th is is going to get worse, and I have some serious is sues regarding the liability of the funeral home/crematory, and as we all know, the Medical Examiner is immune from prosecution.


Mike Nicodemus







---- A Y <> wrote:

> I do not doubt that there have been more indigent burials partly as a result of the economy. Other articles have also attributed part of the increase to families that are not willing to pay for the burial of a relative - a sign of decay in our moral fibre.


I do not understand/agree with th is statement in the article Ed forwarded to us. "The increase in unclaimed bodies had been attributed to local governments

short on cash, which forced them to cut other social service programs".  To me, that is stating that there were more indigent burials due to counties/cities not paying for indigent health care.  Every hospital in the Houston area that accepts such patients on a regular bas is (even for normal health is sues) has reported spending record amounts for such care. Now, LA is probably different but I do not think th is is the condition across the country. I believe there is a trend for an increasing number of families to plead poverty and therefore receive another government entitlement to cover what should be their responsibility. Th is then impacts the number of services performed by cemeteries and funeral homes as "normal" cases.


Stat is tics from other parts of the country and detailed demographic data about the families of the indigent would be required to truly answer th is question.


Art Yerty

Destiny Consulting. Inc.










I found th is of interest in Ed Defort ’s April 2010 Memorial Business Journal. It provides a cautionary note to all of us while emphazing the need to support efforts like the M is sing In America Project.


Ed Horn


“Here’s a good barometer on measuring the economic recovery as it pertains to funeral service: Coroners and medical

examiners across the country are still reporting spikes in the number of unclaimed bodies and indigent burials, with

states, counties and private funeral homes having to foot the bill when families cannot. Last year, to illustrate th is trend,

we reported that the Los Angeles County coroner’s office reported that it cremated more bodies that were unclaimed or

had indigent families than it did in 2008. The increase in unclaimed bodies had been attributed to local governments

short on cash, which forced them to cut other social service programs. Many municipalities are forced into using emergency

and reserve funds to help cover the costs of burials or cremations.


Examiner and coroners’ ofSces donate unclaimed remains to the “Body Farm,” formally

known as the Forensic Anthropological Research Center , the facility had to halt donations

because it had received so many during the year, a spokesman said