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Medical Examiner To Donate Bodies Of Indigents To Science

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Cook County Medical Examiner's Office

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The bodies of those who die in Cook County will now be donated to science if their families lack funds for burial.

The new protocol for the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office was deemed “effective immediately” in a memo from Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Nancy Jones.

If a family of a deceased person claims there is no money for burial, the medical examiner’s office will inform the family that the remains will be released to the Anatomic Gift Association within two weeks of the body having being received at the morgue, the memo said.

In cases where there is no family, the family is not immediately available or the case is being held for storage, the responsible police agency will make all efforts to locate and notify the next of kin that the body will be donated to science if they cannot claim the remains within two weeks of the body being at the medical examiner’s office, the memo said.

There’s one sticking point. In cases where the remains are decomposed, if the person had AIDS or was HIV positive; or if the person was more than 300 pounds, the cases will not be accepted to the Anatomic Gift Association and the body will be buried by the county in the usual fashion, the memo said.

Traditionally, those whose families could not afford burial were interred as indigents.

Earlier this year, County Sheriff Tom Dart decried the practices used to bury indigents, such as the burial of 26 fetuses and stillborn babies in one single coffin, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. He also complained that records of the unmarked gravesites where the indigent were buried at Homewood Memorial Gardens were so vague that no bodies could ever be found, the Sun-Times reported.

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