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View Full Version : Postmortem Options: Can You Get the Body?



mkcbunny
02-20-2006, 04:01 AM
This may vary from state to state, but I'm throwing it out to see what people can tell me. [I live in CA.]

When a loved one dies, other than receiving their ashes after cremation, is there any other situation in which you would be allowed to take the body? I'm wondering if a husband might have any way to get his wife's remains—under false pretenses, if necessary. I would imagine shipped bodies are tracked carefully, even if they leave the country.

On a related note, if said husband paid off a mortician to get the embalmed body, or got it by some other means [let's say he dug her up], how long would the body last? Anyone know anything about that?

Fern
02-20-2006, 04:45 AM
I know people who got permission to bury their son on their property in a family cemetery. There wasn't a cemetery already there. . .they started it.He was taken to the funeral home and prepared for burial and I'm assuming they did the service as usual.

ColoradoGuy
02-20-2006, 04:56 AM
I would imagine shipped bodies are tracked carefully, even if they leave the country.

Yes, the paperwork is complicated. It is also expensive. I worked in a big medical center and occasionally got involved in shipping a dead person back to another state for burial. The mortician lobby is more powerful than you would think.

how long would the body last? Anyone know anything about that?
Depends upon the embalming job. Tissue fully pickled in formalin (buffered formaldehyde) lasts for years and years if kept in the stuff. Lenin lasted for decades until the box holding him began to leak.

mkcbunny
02-20-2006, 06:46 AM
Tissue fully pickled in formalin (buffered formaldehyde) lasts for years and years if kept in the stuff. Lenin lasted for decades until the box holding him began to leak.
Oh, now I' picturing Lenin juice. Yuk.

Thanks for the help. I'm thinking that she might have to be mummified, because keeping her pickled isn't realistic in this situation. Mummification is, though.

mkcbunny
02-20-2006, 06:47 AM
I know people who got permission to bury their son on their property in a family cemetery. There wasn't a cemetery already there. . .they started it.He was taken to the funeral home and prepared for burial and I'm assuming they did the service as usual.
What state do they live in? This is helpful and might work for the character in question.

DaveKuzminski
02-21-2006, 06:24 PM
I recall reading an article about that in a Virginia newspaper about a decade ago. I think there may have also been an article in either Time or Newsweek one or two decades ago.

From what I remember, a lot of states still permit the relatives to receive the body for burial and not all states require embalming under such circumstances. Embalming may be required for health reasons when public viewing takes place and sometimes when long distance shipment is involved.

Fern
02-21-2006, 07:47 PM
The folks I know about live in Oklahoma.

Try this link for information that might be helpful. Answers many questions regarding burial, who can receive the body, etc.

http://www.okfuneral.com/factsaboutfunerals.htm

mkcbunny
02-21-2006, 08:49 PM
Thanks! I will take a look. If anyone knows CA law or where I can find CA-specific info, holler.

Squidgygirl
02-22-2006, 07:22 AM
I don't know if this is of any use to you, but when my grandfather died at Christmas, we were asked if we wanted him home before the funeral - as in, the funeral directors (when they eventually got him from the hospital!) had prepped his body and would bring him in his coffin to the house. I think you could also have the lid off so that you could see him and talk to him, and stuff (we declined - so, I'm only relating what we were told at the time). I know they used to do that years ago, but didn't know it was still done now.


BTW, this was in England. I don't know if it's done in the USA at all.

mkcbunny
02-22-2006, 07:56 AM
Interesting. I think I can get away with my wacky idea.

Fern
02-22-2006, 08:09 AM
It was called a wake. I've been to several when I was a kid. The funeral home prepared the body and brought it to the house. Family/friends stayed awake and sat with the body through the night and I think the funeral was held the next day as best I remember.

dahmnait
02-22-2006, 08:25 AM
I did a quick perusal of FindLaw (http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cacodes/hsc/7000-7025.html). As far as I can tell, it is illegal to bury anyone outside of a cemetery (or other legally defined place of internment.) The codes regarding disposition permits are here (http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cacodes/hsc/103050%2D103105.html).

mkcbunny
02-22-2006, 08:41 AM
It was called a wake. I've been to several when I was a kid. The funeral home prepared the body and brought it to the house. Family/friends stayed awake and sat with the body through the night and I think the funeral was held the next day as best I remember.
Mmmm. Ideally, what I need is a situation in which the body is not expected back.

mkcbunny
02-22-2006, 08:42 AM
I did a quick perusal of FindLaw (http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cacodes/hsc/7000-7025.html). As far as I can tell, it is illegal to bury anyone outside of a cemetery (or other legally defined place of internment.) The codes regarding disposition permits are here (http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cacodes/hsc/103050%2D103105.html).
Very helpful. Thanks. I found this entry particularly visceral:

7010.3. "Processing" means the removal of foreign objects, pursuant
to Section 7051, and the reduction of the particle size of cremated
remains by mechanical means including, but not limited to, grinding,
crushing, and pulverizing to a consistency appropriate for
disposition.

Jamesaritchie
02-24-2006, 02:43 AM
This may vary from state to state, but I'm throwing it out to see what people can tell me. [I live in CA.]

When a loved one dies, other than receiving their ashes after cremation, is there any other situation in which you would be allowed to take the body? I'm wondering if a husband might have any way to get his wife's remains—under false pretenses, if necessary. I would imagine shipped bodies are tracked carefully, even if they leave the country.

On a related note, if said husband paid off a mortician to get the embalmed body, or got it by some other means [let's say he dug her up], how long would the body last? Anyone know anything about that?



It all depends on where you live. Some states make it impossible, others make it difficult, others make it pretty easy. There are many places where states relase teh body to the family, and it's entirely up to the family whether or not to have a mortician handle things, or whether to bury the body in a family cemetary, and even use the body to start a family cemetary.

And, yes, you could pay off whoever is in possesion of the body to say it was stolen. Sadly, stolen bodies are not that rare.

Even an embalmed body doesn't last very long before some decomposition can be seen, usually dehydration. After a couple of weeks, you can tell there's a problem. But it can take months for the body to really shrivle into a sort of husk. But it depends on the body, the skinner and more muscular the body, the slower decomp is in all cases.

Fern
02-24-2006, 03:13 AM
I don't know any of the particulars but there are instances where families don't want the body embalmed and they have to bury it within a certain amount of hours. I'm assuming you get a permit for it.

Don't know if it would be of any help to you but some bodies are donated for research so wouldn't be having burial plans for them at all. Might be you could work an instance like that around to suit your character's needs.

Kathie Freeman
02-26-2006, 04:24 AM
I found these sections in the CA state health and safety code. It's a bit convoluted, but the gist of it is, probably not legally.

7100. (a) The right to control the disposition of the remains of a
deceased person, the location and conditions of interment, and
arrangements for funeral goods and services to be provided, . . . ,
vests in, and the duty of disposition and the liability for
the reasonable cost of disposition of the remains devolves upon, the
following in the order named:
(1) An agent under a power of attorney.
(2) The competent surviving spouse.
(3) The sole surviving competent adult child of the decedent.
(4) The surviving competent parent or parents of the decedent.
etc.
(b) (1) If any person to whom the right of control has vested
pursuant to subdivision (a) has been charged with first or second
degree murder or voluntary manslaughter in connection with the
decedent's death and those charges are known to the funeral director
or cemetery authority, the right of control is relinquished and
passed on to the next of kin in accordance with subdivision (a).
(2) If the charges against the person are dropped, or if the
person is acquitted of the charges, the right of control is returned
to the person.

7055. Every person, who for himself or herself or for another
person, inters or incinerates a body or permits the same to be done,
or removes any remains, other than cremated remains, from the primary
registration district in which the death or incineration occurred or
the body was found, except a removal by a funeral director in a
funeral director's conveyance or an officer of a duly accredited
medical college engaged in official duties with respect to the body
of a decedent who has willfully donated his or her body to the
medical college from that registration district or county to another
registration district or county, or within the same registration
district or county, without the authority of a burial or removal
permit issued by the local registrar of the district in which the
death occurred or in which the body was found; or removes interred
human remains from the cemetery in which the interment occurred, or
removes cremated remains from the premises on which the cremation
occurred without the authority of a removal permit is guilty of a
misdemeanor and punishable as follows:
(a) For the first offense, by a fine of not less than ten dollars
($10) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500).
(b) For each subsequent offense, by a fine of not less than fifty
dollars ($50) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500) or
imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 60 days, or by
both.

check out http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cacodes/hsc/7050.5-7055.html

mkcbunny
02-26-2006, 12:19 PM
Thank you all for those last posts; all are very helpful. I'm wiggling my way through the plausible scenarios and appreciate the information.

WriterInChains
02-27-2006, 12:03 AM
I don't know if this helps, but in 1988 a friend of ours died in a hospital in San Francisco & her boyfriend wanted to be sure she was treated well between the hospital and the funeral home (the whole situation was terrible while she fought Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma for about 8 months). My ex put on an appropriately somber suit and went to the hospital to pick up her body. He told the hospital he worked at the funeral home & really sold the idea that he just lost the paperwork necessary to take possession of her body. The hospital staff loaded her body into the back of my ex's van & the three of them (ex, friend, & friend's g/f) drove back over the bridge and to the funeral parlor.

It's been said of my ex that he could sell ice machines at the North Pole, but I was surprised he got away with that one. I don't know if it's still possible today, but I guess it depends on if you can sell it well enough in the story.

Have a great day! :)
Caren

mkcbunny
02-27-2006, 12:35 AM
... It's been said of my ex that he could sell ice machines at the North Pole, but I was surprised he got away with that one. I don't know if it's still possible today, but I guess it depends on if you can sell it well enough in the story.
That's quite a tale. I think that as long as there are ways that it can be done, then I am good to go. Having worked through the plot points, I now do not need to explain exactly how the character might have done it, but I do need there to be the possibility that he was able to do it.

All very helpful! Thanks.