Transportation Of Bodies

Autopsy pathologists should be familiar with the laws concerning the transportation of bodies in or from their state by motor vehicle, aircraft or other means. In Minnesota, regulations specify that the remains of the dead must be properly embalmed if they are shipped by public transportation (31). Transportation permits must be issued for each body by local or state registrars. The signatures of the embalmer, the registrar, and the person in charge of the conveyance are required on the transportation permit. Burial and transportation permits are delivered with the body to the person in charge of the cemetery or to the health officer in cities that have local ordinances requiring burial permits by this official.

In Florida, the business of transporting dead bodies is regulated by the Health Department but the transporters are not required to have funeral director licenses, as they are in Massachusetts, to name an example. Relatives can convey remains of loved ones from a Florida hospital or medical examiners morgue. There is no requirement to embalm before transportation. Death certificates are not required for transportation to the site of disposition, but burial permits are required. Any subreg-istrar of the vital records office may issue burial permits. Most licensed funeral directors are also subregistrars, and all medical examiners offices have one person who is a subregistrar.

If a body is to be shipped out of the country, the pathologist is often asked by the funeral director to supply a letter stating that the autopsy showed no evidence of any infectious or communicable diseases. The letter should have enough identifying information such as name and date of death to match it to the death certificate or transit permit, but need not offer any cause of death opinion. The following letter represents a useful sample.

"To Whom it may Concern:

[Name of deceased] died on [month, day, year]. The autopsy revealed no evidence of any communicable or infectious disease. The remains may be transported out of the country. [Name of physician], M.D.

[Function of physician, such as "Associate Medical Examiner"]"

Each state has regulations concerning embalming, caskets, containers, transportation, and disinterment. These regulations are the province of the funeral director.

Final disposition of the body is by burial, cremation, and, uncommonly, burial at sea or donation for anatomic dissection. Removal of a body from the state is considered a form of disposition as far as state health departments are concerned. The bone fragments left after cremation are ground into small pieces to help perpetuate the illusion of ashes; this material, known as cremains, is not subject to state rules pertaining to disposition of human bodies. However, some municipalities have enacted ordinances to regulate and reduce the numbers of bone fragments strewn from airplanes, bridges, and water craft.

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