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Unclaimed Bodies Indicator

  • Date Submitted: 01/17/2013 11:07 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 56.1 
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Economics
11/2/12

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 payments per month, compared with six hundred thirty seven for those two months last year. As bagged and tagged bodies pile cold and stiff in the Wayne County medical examiner's two refrigerated storage rooms and one freezer, some family members are faced with two options: paying for a funeral out of their pockets or not claiming their family members.
About three thousand seven hundred corpses each year are wheeled into the medical examiner's office on Detroit's east side. Between fifty and sixty of the corpses now being stored are unclaimed, about double the number at any time in 2008. 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...

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