1. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    The Business side of Death

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by BayView, Jul 23, 2016.

    I have a character who died in a house fire. His body was taken to a hospital and is now, I assume, in the morgue there.

    His only family is his brother, and the brother is not handling the death well. He doesn't want a funeral.

    My other character is trying to follow up on things and be part of the mourning process, but the brother won't answer calls/texts/etc.

    If my other character called the hospital I assume they wouldn't know anything about funeral arrangements (or the lack thereof). If the brother was going to have the body buried, but without a ceremony, who would take care of that? Still a funeral home, or is there some way to skip the middle man? (Money's a concern, but the brother is mostly angry at the dead brother and all his friends and just doesn't want them to glorify what he felt were unhealthy relationships.)

    And how could my other character find out about the burial?
     
  2. BWriter
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    BWriter Member

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    I don't know if this is universal or just my area but the other day I was speaking to some one whose friend had just died with no one to do the funeral arrangments. Apparently in this case they do something called a hospital burial. Where he is given the most basic burial possible on a plot of land owned by the hospital. Thats what i was told any way and i dont know if its a common practise.
     
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  3. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    This is a really interesting dilemma. I took a look online for stuff pertaining to this scenario, and one thing seems to be the case. This is not an issue that's regulated by federal law, apparently, but rather by state law. Even local law, when it comes to where bodies get buried or cremated, and who picks up the cost. So whatever state your story takes place in will probably have its own laws about this kind of thing. Maybe start there?

    Because you are a traditionally published writer with a list of books to your name, it might be an idea to take your list of specific questions to one of the hospitals in that state (if you're already living there, that should be easy to do) and explain your situation. I'm sure somebody in the administration there could give you the information you're after ...and who knows, maybe a few extra ideas as well.
     
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  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    The book's set in Seattle, and I'm in central Canada. Oops.

    And I've had zero luck with e-mails to people in research situations. I've contacted police departments (the PR department, which, you would think, would be willing to help), government agencies, pricate businesses... I rarely even get a reply e-mail, and when I do it's telling me they aren't going to help.

    Grrrrr.
     
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Could you not book an appointment with whoever runs the hospital morgue and ask? Or just walk into the hospital where the morgue is and ask?
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    What country is that?

    Here's what they do in this state when the person dies in a public hospital or jail.

    I imagine for a private hospital there is a mechanism for transferring the body to a state or county agency.

    That would be if the brother just refused to take responsibility for the body. Otherwise, from the hospital the family designates a funeral home who comes and gets the body. The hospital is not allowed to tell anyone who isn't a family member anything about the death or which funeral home picked up the body.

    The other OP questions.
    Correct.

    You cannot skip the middleman. By law you can't just bury someone. However, you can order a burial without embalming and without a ceremony. You'd be required to buy a coffin.

    The alternative and the cheapest is to have the person cremated. They then turn the ashes over to the next of kin or legal guardian if there is no NOK. You can dump the ashes in any number of places, no permit required.

    If the brother chose no funeral, there won't be one.

    Your character can still have a memorial, invite friends and relatives. There just won't be a body or a burial to go with it. We had a nice memorial for a friend. There was a photo of him. He was an atheist so we didn't hold it in a church but you can. Almost any church would accommodate you.

    People all got up and said nice things about our deceased friend. His sister and brother-in-law came. People who knew different aspects of his life, invited other people, like the coworkers from the company he had retired from.
     
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  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, in this case I can't because of geography.

    But in general, I don't have much luck because, I guess, it's nobody's job to answer questions from curious novelists.
     
  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I mean your local hospital. There must be one!? Would a medical doctor's forum be of help? Chances are most of us wouldn't have a clue whether what you've written is accurate after all, so maybe you can just ask at your nearest hospital.
     
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  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Totally different country. I could give it a try, I guess...
     
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  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh shit. Oh well.

    My own attitude to research is write the book. As soon as it's published EVERYBODY who knows the information you're after will start sniping at you for being wrong. You can say ...ha ha, guys, that book was just a fake. Now that you've all come out of hiding, tell me what I need to know and I'll go away and write the REAL book.
     
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  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Geez, that's a great link, Ginger. Lots of eye-opening information that I'm sure BayView can use. One of the interesting things was the 'list' of people who are assumed to be responsible for the body. The Spouse. The Children. The Parents. Siblings aren't specifically mentioned, but I wonder if they come somewhere down the list. Or if they're not actually included on the list.
     
  12. GingerCoffee
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    There is a pecking order for NOK.

    You can designate a NOK ahead of time. If not, the spouse is always first. (Recall the Terry Schiavo case.) Adult children next if there is no spouse. The courts recognize when you become an adult your choices trump your parents'. No spouse, no kids, parents are next. Sans all those, it's tricky if there are siblings who disagree. Siblings do count in the line as NOK and if no one objects, the one who steps forward is granted authority.

    Sometimes a niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, cousin or grandparent becomes the NOK. If someone has been handing the deceased's affairs, they usually step up and again, if it is a relative the hospital takes their word for it and allows them to make decisions.

    Hospitals don't do background checks. If a family member steps up and takes charge of the person's affairs, we wouldn't question it. Say for example the spouse is elderly and kid(s) show up to sign papers, no one would say the spouse has to sign.

    If there is infighting in the family and the relatives have equal standing, (not common but it does happen) then one of them has to get court granted power of attorney. Sometimes there might also be a guardian appointed in lieu of NOK.
     
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  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    It makes the head spin a bit, doesn't it. An older person often sets this kind of legal procedure up, as with power of attorney, etc (my husband and I have done that, as well as made and registered a will) but I suspect many young people, such as the character in @BayView's story, probably haven't got any of this kind of legal setup in place. I know I certainly didn't—not till I was in my mid-forties when my husband and I made our wills. Heaven only knows what would have happened if I had kicked the bucket before I got married. Jack and I didn't get power of attorney set up either, until about 5 years ago. (It's a bit more involved and cost us around £300.) Yikes.

    If all you've got are siblings and they don't get along, either with you or with each other, it's probably a good idea to get your decisions worked out ahead of time and made legal. There's this nagging feeling some people have that this kind of preparation means you're going to die prematurely, but that's not the case. It actually gives great peace of mind. And it's not quite in the same league of wackaroni behaviour as picking out your coffin 20 years before the event, and keeping it in your bedroom! But whatever floats your boat, eh? :)
     

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