Lawmaker proposes law to hold doctors accountable for cremation delays

Lawmaker proposes law to hold doctors accountable for cremation delays
Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 5:44 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Delays in cremating the remains of loved ones have grieving families on edge, and one Ohio lawmaker is proposing a law to hold doctors who won’t sign death certificates accountable.

Jacob Young with Paul R. Young Funeral home says cremation delays are frustrating for the families.

Young says in about 30% of all cremation cases, it is a deceased person’s doctor who does not sign a death certificate in a timely manner.

“It’s the phone calls going back and forth, it’s the families calling in checking, ‘hey, where’s my loved one?’” Young explained. “Sure, I get it. We don’t want to do that any longer than we have to either. So, we’re calling and trying to get this done on our end as quickly as possible as well.”

Another delay in the cremating problem can be who should sign the death certificate.

Some doctors think that part should be done by the coroner, but Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco disagrees.

“[The coroner] Doesn’t know anything about your patient, no medical records, no nothing,” explains Sammarco. “It’s ok for me to sign a death certificate on your patient? Does that make any sense to you?”

Ohio State Senator Steve Huffman is proposing legislation that would penalize doctors who don’t sign death certificates in a timely manner.

“If the physician won’t do it, it’s a five-day, seven days, two weeks, they can’t cremate the body, they can’t do anything to the body,” said Rep. Huffman. “They can’t start filing the will or do anything with the estate because there’s no death certificate.”

Dr. Sammarco says she has addressed liability issues with doctors.

“I have these discussions with some physicians and say, you realize they’re already dead,” said Dr. Sammarco. “There is no doing more harm to this patient. There is no doing harm to this patient.”

Young agrees with Dr. Sammarco.

“There’s no finality. They want that closure, and they don’t get it,” said Young. “So, it’s going to take more time. Just know that and know that we’re going to go to bat for you the absolute best we can.”

There are some exceptions for county coroner’s when religious traditions require a swift burial or cremation.

FOX19 is told only about one in three doctors are slow to sign death certificates, but that is little comfort for those families who are in the minority and are looking to hold a funeral service for their departed loved one.

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