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Cadavers without toe tags lead to investigations

Last year in Cook County, Illinois, a medical examiner was forced to resign amid a mismanagement scandal that included overcrowding and an incident in which a woman’s body was stored, unidentified by toe tags (or anything else), for 14 months. The body was so badly decomposed by the time county officials began investigating that they could not collect viable DNA samples.
Morgue
Identifying dead bodies may be unglamorous work, but toe tags help
maintain accountability during sensitive processes like autopsy and burial.
Licensed under Creative Commons; via Pavel Tcholakov.
O.K., isolated incident, right? Well, last March, police found a homicide victim named Robert Daley in Mansfield, Ohio. A week later, his family held the funeral, and then his body kind of, well, disappeared. And it turns out that funeral director Timothy Werner was conducting funerals on a suspended license— in flagrant violation of the code of ethics we more or less assume regulates the activities of funeral directors, and which is probably bound in a tasteful, satin-lined binder.
“Funeral homes are inspected and there are licenses. You cannot operate funeral homes just wherever, says Vanessa Niekamp, executive director of the state’s Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, in what we assume was a comfortingly sober and conciliatory voice.
Closure for anyone concerned about the missing remains from paragraph two: Mr. Daley’s body was recovered weeks later, inside the Richland County morgue, to which a business associate of Mr. Werner apparently had his own key.
There’s no proof that he ever enlivened boring dinner parties by asking, “Hey, do you wanna see a dead body?” But there’s no proof that he didn’t, either. What we do know for sure is that Werner abandoned the body at the morgue when the lack of appropriate paperwork prohibited cremating Mr. Daley in accordance with the family’s wishes.
“We became aware that Werner and Gerald Polk were involved with a body through Werner trying to file a death certificate,” Niekamp said. “He actually put the address of the funeral home that was not licensed. This incident will come before the state board in April.”
Coroner Toe Tag
This toe tag does work we might find ghoulish, but it’s one of the essential tools
of the coroner and funeral director’s trade. Via xpresstags.com.
Aside from the whole “rogue undertaker” issue, the morgue itself is reportedly revisiting its access policies and hopefully the frequency with which they conduct inventories.
It seems kind of crazy that we even need to talk about this, but disorganization in morgues and subsequent misidentification tend to escalate into media scandals. We’ve all heard of scenarios in newspapers and, like, O. Henry stories in which newborns are accidentally switched at birth in the hospital. But the government and the trilateral commission or whatever have so far managed to cover up the number of people accidentally switched at death in morgues.
Needless to say, toe tags are one time-tested method of decedent identification and the prevention of posthumous changelings, documenting name, vital stats, and items like case numbers in the event of a police investigation. We’ve heard of some places using wrist bands for the same purpose, but it seems a little disrespectful to deploy the same techniques used by blues festivals and beer gardens. Toe tags cost pennies and provide ready information to help even the busiest, most disorganized medical examiner locate and identify the correct remains.

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