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Funerals/Protocol Transporting from Hospital to Funeral Home

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Question
My mother passed away in a hospital in Boise, Idaho on the 15th of September. Her entire illness was very sudden and unexpected, as she was an active woman in pretty good health. Her place of residence was Hailey, Idaho (2 hour drive away), and when she became severely ill she was life flighted to Boise for a medical procedure but died 4 days later. My sister and I are the only remaining immediate family members, In the midst of her final hours in the ICU, the hospital provided a Chaplin, who was very comforting during our grief and was there when my mother passed away. At some point during all of the confusion, sobbing and phone calls to relatives, she asked questions about where our mother was from and we openly shared information about where she went to church, etc. Without our knowing it, she was taking notes about her church, the presiding Father, etc. At no point was my sister or I directly asked about where we would like our mother taken in terms of a funeral home, etc. In fact, we were very concerned because we thought that transporting her body back to Hailey might be very costly and discussed that maybe we might have to have a local funeral home take care of the cremation to save on cost. We spent a couple of hours with my mother after she passed away and we were told by the nurse on staff that we could let them know where we wanted her taken as soon as we figured it out. The next morning we learned that our mother had already been transported back to Hailey without our knowledge. We were shocked that this was allowed without a family members signature and was done solely based on a form that was filled out by the Chaplin, based on conversations that took place while we were under extreme grief and shock in the final hours of our mothers life. We were not aware that she was even taking such notes. We tried to speak to someone with the hospital of authority and got nowhere. We are trying to determine what the protocol is for releasing a body from a hospital to a funeral home. It just seems very unprofessional and unethical that member of the hospital staff didnít sit down with us and have a coherent conversation about our wishes.  Is this something we should pursue legally?  Thanks for your help.

Answer
Absolutely stand your ground. And I'd be glad to help any way I can. You can tell the Hailey Funeral Home that you did not authorize such a move and that they should collect the bill from the hospital. Tell the funeral home that you will pay only for any contract YOU have signed for services you selected.

You should also educate the chaplain that caring for your own dead is very therapeutic, especially for an unexpected and untimely death. By calling a funeral home to move the body, she stole from you the opportunity to have transported the body yourself.

The FEO newsletter had an issue dealing with hospitals' post-mortem policies. Many, many hospitals are poorly informed--http://www.funeralethics.org/fall07.pdf--which you might share with the hospital.

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Lisa Carlson

Expertise

Funeral Law. Having written a 512-page book on funeral law for consumers with state-by-state information, I am very conversant with consumer rights in this regard: What are the laws on disposition of cremated remains? Is embalming required? Do I have to use a funeral home? Can I have a home wake? Is it a state law to buy a vault? I prepaid for a funeral but changed my mind. They won`t give me all my money back. What can I do? . . . If you have an immediate need for information because a death has just occurred or is about to occur, you may call me at 802-482-6021.

Experience

I have monitored the funeral industry on behalf of consumers for over 20 years. I have been a guest speaker to funeral trade organizations, consumer workshops, and social service professionals. I am regularly consulted by lawyers and legislators as well as journalists.

Organizations
Funeral Ethics Organization (www.funeralethics.org) Funeral Consumers Alliance (www.funerals.org)

Publications
Caring for Your Own Dead (1987) Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love (1998) I Died Laughing: Funeral Education with a Light Touch (2001) Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death (2011) with co-author Joshua Slocum

Education/Credentials
Masters degree in Administration and Special Education

Past/Present Clients
Available as an expert witness for funeral-related court cases.

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