A North Carolina mortician is in jeopardy of losing his license because no one would tell him what to do with a corpse:
[The mortician] was waiting for authorization to have 37-year-old [LW]’s body cremated. [LW], of Carrboro, died alone in her apartment from a medical condition in early August and by the time the Carrboro Police Department learned of her death, officials think she was dead for almost a week and her body was already decomposing.
[The mortician] was contacted Aug. 11 to handle the body. [His] Mortuary was one of several funeral homes on a rotating list that the Carrboro Police Department uses. Police struggled to find next of kin so [the mortician] was unable to get her cremated immediately.
So he left the already decomposing body in a hearse.
In North Carolina.
But he parked the hearse under a shade tree!
Unfortunately for the mortician, he'd agreed to be on a list used by the police to place unclaimed bodies once the police are finished with whatever godawful things it is that police do to corpses. Probably for a little extra money. After all most corpses are claimed pretty quickly, especially in a small community like Graham, North Carolina, which resembles Mayberry even if Carrboro, where the body died, is a small-town Sodom.
And then the comedy of errors began. The mortician didn't have the sort of refrigeration this already badly decomposed corpse needed, or the space. The police wouldn't tell him what to do. The state board, which is now investigating him, wouldn't tell him what to do (he asked). And it's likely, according to the board itself, that if he'd embalmed or burned the body without authorization and a relative showed up to complain, he'd be sued and face disciplinary action from the state board for mishandling a corpse.
And of course, no one would take the body back. No one wanted that hot potato, or rather, that hot, decomposing, gas-bloated potato.
So under a tree it sat, for 11 days until the Orange County Board of Social Services, a county away, authorized ending the thing with fire.
This is a grimly humorous story, involving a rural funeral director out of his depth, bureaucracy, and a stinking dead body. It could have been written by Poe, or perhaps H. P. Lovecraft. But it may say something about our society that we're so regulated, and so afraid of lawsuits, that no one will do the obvious thing without a permit from the proper government agency or for fear of lawsuits, even when it involves something as obvious as burning a 20 day old old corpse, in a coastal southern state, in August.
(Note: I removed all personal references from this post, because I feel some pity for the mortician, and a lot for the woman who died alone without family. And because this site has a higher page rank than the newspaper in question, which is kind of cool because I grew up in that small town and I used to read that paper, back in the days before concepts like "page rank" existed.)