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What to do if family refuses to accept responsibility for deceased's body....

Posted

Specializes in MDS/ UR. Has 39 years experience.

I was not directly involved in this adventure but the whole thing got me to wondering if anyone else has experienced this and how they (or their facility) handled it.

This weekend we had a resident die. It was not an unexpected death but the event occurred a bit sooner than expected. Anyways, the family was notified of the event but had no wishes to come to our facility. Unfortunately, no mortuary had been designated. The family declined to name one because they did not wish to be responsible for the bill.

In the end, after 12 hours, the family committed to cremation society which is the most frugal option available.

Anyone have anything similar occur in their career or facility?

I would love too see what people have to say about this. Personally, I think that if that is all they could afford then they had no choice; but if they could afford something else and did this shame on them.

it happens, death ain't even free and it's overwhelming for many even if they know it's coming. at times you have to help the family out by informing them of options available.

there's nothing wrong with cremation.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

I am employed at a nursing home that has a higher-than-average proportion of poorer and indigent residents who live there. If no one wants to claim the body of the decedent, then it is turned over to the county morgue where, quite possibly, they'll cremate it or prepare it for a potter's field burial.

I completely understand about not having money to bury someone with a big service but they didn't even want to come to the facility? I would hope they would have a little more respect to their dead family member than that. Kinda of sad to me. They should have been more prepared for this by looking at cremation sooner but at least you know what the least expensive option is now in case this happens in the future, right?

Emergency RN

Specializes in ED, CTSurg, IVTeam, Oncology. Has 30 years experience.

Aside from reluctant families, for unclaimed decedents, their municipality usually disposes of the remains. Years ago, they were interred in "Potter's Field" type of public cemeteries. However as costs for these facilities grew, many cities too, have taken to cremation, with the ashes stored in case there are future claims.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

I would hope they would have a little more respect to their dead family member than that. Kinda of sad to me.
In some situations, it is hard to pay respect to the dead family member who sexually abused his daughters, disciplined her sons by burning them with lit cigarettes, or disowned their adult children for whatever reason (marrying someone of another race, being gay, etc.). I usually try to step into the shoes of the person who refuses to see the dead person.

Not everyone loved their children unconditionally, and that is truly sad.

iNurseUK, RN

Specializes in Plastics. General Surgery. ITU. Oncology. Has 20 years experience.

Difficult situation for sure.

When I worked in ITU we had this young guy (late 20's maybe) admitted with a brain abscess. The person who had brought him to A&E in the first place had quickly vanished leaving us false name and address for the patient and NO contact details at all.

The poor patient was in no condition to communicate with us and he died within 48 hours of admission. We were stuck. We didn't know who he was, what religion he might be, who the next of kin were, nothing.

Of course we got the police involved but I always wondered, because we never heard, if this young man ever had a marked grave.

Emile

Has 1 years experience.

I completely understand your concern but you never know wat transpired between the deceased and their family. My sister and I have already decided to abandon our dad once he passes. For years we have tried to talk to him about burial/life insurance but he constantly refuses. He says he sees no point in this. We know for a fact he doesn't have any money saved for his burial. He says that we will figure it out once he is dead, without taking into consideration that we are both young and putting ourselves through college. We are both using loans to get through school so him expecting us to acquire more debt to bury him is beyond my understanding. I feel bad about it and I know what a shame it will be but when that day come I will take absolutely NO responsibily for his corpse.

Am I wrong though??

I cannot imagine doing something like that myself, because to me family is family. But at the same time I do not want to be to quick in judging the family's reaction. Maybe they did not have money or they did not want to be bothered with this family member. Sounds cruel, but a older lady friend said to me a good 15 years ago, "The way you treat people when you are alive, is the way they will treat you when you die." My two schillings.

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN, CNS

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU. Has 27 years experience.

In the hospitals where I've worked, we had a rotational call schedule of funeral homes that would come and claim the bodies. .

Other option - county coroner.

RN1980

Specializes in icu/er.

tell them you are going to sell the body to a medical school for a fee to which you and the other nurses in the unit will split for a drunkin night at the local pub...

In these economic times this is happening even more than usual. People will not claim the body because they fear being held resposnible for expenses before and after death. Two or three years ago there was a man on TV who admitted he deliberately abandoned his mother's body at a hospital because he did not want to be responsible for the expenses incured in burying her. But then something happened to her body that infuriated him. I forget what it was, either her body was turned over to a medical school or he thought she was going to be buried and they cremated her. He had the unmitigated gall to go on TV and complain to reporters. I was agast. I would be so ashamed to have the public find out that I abandoned my mom in death, I couldn't imagine anouncing it on TV.

My greatest fear is not death. My greatest fear would be that I would die and my family would put an ad in the paper asking for donations from the community to help bury me. That in my opinion, is a fate worse than death. I would like to prepay for my cremation now. However, I am not sick now and what if I decide I want to move elsewhere in the future? Would I be able to get my money back from the local cremation services or would I be out of luck?:confused: Does anyone know if you can get your cremation money back if you move?

My greatest fear is not death. My greatest fear would be that I would die and my family would put an ad in the paper asking for donations from the community to help bury me. That in my opinion, is a fate worse than death. I would like to prepay for my cremation now. However, I am not sick now and what if I decide I want to move elsewhere in the future? Would I be able to get my money back from the local cremation services or would I be out of luck?:confused: Does anyone know if you can get your cremation money back if you move?

This is called preneed services. Usually, if you pay for something with a particular facility, they will not give your money back. It depends upon the contract so watch that fine print.

dudette10, MSN, RN

Specializes in Med/Surg, Academics. Has 10 years experience.

Would it be a good idea to anticipate that it's actually a financial issue and explain that there are low-cost options for the family? Like others have said, maybe it's fear of going into 5-10K debt if they step foot in a hospital to claim the body. Once the contact explicity says or implies that they will not be claiming the body, could we say something like, "I thought you might want to know that there are some low cost options for your relative's remains--in the neighborhood of $XXX--to pursue if you should change your mind. We have a person here you could talk to about that, if financial issues are a concern."

While I realize that there are various reasons why someone might abandon a body at a hospital, at least this response addresses one of those reasons proactively.

metal_m0nk, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU.

I know that this is really uncouth, but all I could think of when I read this was, "Wow, that person must have been a real *******."

NickiLaughs, ADN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Emergency, Trauma, Critical Care. Has 12 years experience.

I completely understand the family side in certain situations. My husband was 20 when his mother died. His Dad was off doing drugs, as was his sister. He was working two jobs and trying to go to school to become an x-ray tech, barely surviving. Of course he was the only one who showed up, and he got stuck with the bill....even at the cheapest rate it was still a lot of money for him. It was the hair that broke the camel's back, and cause him to go into debt to where he had to drop out of school and was still working as a truck driver when we met.

Things are better now, but not everyone is financially equipped to handle a family situation when no one prepared. I always felt so bad for him, he had to mourn his mother's death alone, and then take care of the bill alone.