Could there have been foul play and a body cremated without a coroner investigating?
It probably hasn’t happened, but a bill in the Mississippi Legislature would make sure it never did.
The real impetus of the bill, however, is to create a statewide, unified process for crematoriums to follow. Some require death certificates from doctors while others accept a coroner’s report.
House Bill 706, authored by Rep. Karl Oliver, R-Winona, would prohibit cremation unless the coroner or deputy coroner of the county in which the death occurred certifies they have investigated the cause and the manner of death, have the opinion that no further examination is necessary and approve the cremation.
On Friday, the bill was passed by the House Judiciary B Committee. It now goes to the full House.
Although the bill would require a coroner to give approval before a cremation, Rep. Kevin Ford, R-Vicksburg, said he believes the legislation would speed up the process.
Ford said some bodies can sit in storage for a significant amount of time waiting until crematorium requirements are met.
But Rep. Hank Zuber, R-Ocean Springs, questioned the need for the bill during the committee meeting.
“Are we messing around with (death) notification?” Zuber asked.
Cremation is a growing trend across the country because the average cost is about $1,100 compared to the average cost of $6,000 for a funeral and burial.
Mississippi Funeral Directors Association Board President Sammy Reed of Verona said the board hasn’t discussed the bill, but he personally supports it.
Reed, manager of Lee Memorial Funeral Home in Tupelo and Verona who also serves as a deputy county coroner, said if a person dies in a hospital, it can take up to four or five days to get a death certificate from a doctor.
Getting the needed paperwork from a coroner is usually an efficient process, Reed said.
“We get it pretty quickly,” Reed said. “It works out smoothly.”
Under the bill, the coroner or his deputy would be entitled to charge the normal, applicable $25 fee for the investigation; if the applicant didn’t pay it, the county would.