Cremation, Regulations

Indiana funeral directors deal with double whammy. . . .COVID deaths and new death certificate system

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Have you ever been really, really busy and then as you try to get something done, nothing seems to work correctly?  It seems like that happens to me a lot.  Well, it is happening to our colleagues in the state of Indiana where they have recently surpassed the 8,200 number of deaths from COVID-19.

Not only are many funeral directors extremely busy trying to care for the deceased, but also in taking care of the living.  Couple that busy-ness with a new web-based death certificate system that went into effect on January 1, 2o21, and you can see where things could go wrong. Sometimes, the timing is just bad.

This television story and print article from WISH TV8 in Indianapolis explains the dilemma.  Funeral directors were happy to get the new system and eager to put it into use to streamline death certificate information giving better service to the families that they are serving.  And, unlike many rollouts of new systems, the system seems to be working very well when the attending physician and the funeral home are both registered users.

However, for the new system to operate at its peak performance level, both funeral directors and doctors have to be signed up for it.  The article seems to explain that many physician’s offices are not yet signed up for the service which then causes a death certificate to that physician with an inability to be completed.

Again, the timing is just bad.  Many physicians are extremely busy taking care of their patients and dealing with all that a highly contagious virus warrants.  And, on the other hand are funeral directors who do not have the ability to cremate bodies because Indiana requires a completed death certificate and a 48-hour waiting period for that purpose.

One funeral director quoted in the article tells that the situation has caused his funeral home and some crematories to be backed up and delays are happening with the dispositions of cases.  In a time when deaths are occurring at a rapid pace that can cause anxiety among funeral professionals, crematory operators, and families.

The Indiana Department of Health is on top of the situation and has devised a temporary use “Cremation or Disposition of Remains” form to use as a bridge to the death certificate.  The form allows a coroner signature authorizing cremation or other disposition after that coroner has discussed the death case situation with the attending physician, physician assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse.  The form does not substitute for a death certificate that must eventually be filed but does “prevent undue hardship upon the family of the deceased or funeral director” according to the Indiana Department of Health.

Here is the Indiana Department of Health memorandum on the topic and a sample of the “Authorization for Disposition of Remains”.

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