Death in King County will get a little more expensive in 2011.  King County Medical Examiner, Dr. Richard Harruff recently informed area funeral homes that beginning January 1, 2011 a $50 fee will be charged by his office for all deaths occurring in the county.

In 2008 the King County Medical Examiner began charging a $50 fee to review the cause of death in each case where the choice of disposition was cremation.  The argument was that cremation destroys forensic evidence regarding cause of death so these investigations needed to occur prior to that taking place.   However, with burial it was argued that a body could be later exhumed if necessary.    With 9,122 cremations taking place in King County last year, that fee generated more than $400,000 for the county in 2009.   Budgets are tight.   Last year 3,039 county residents were buried.  Do the math–Charging $50 for each burial will generate another $150,000 for county coffers.   At the same time, the Medical Examiner’s office announced it is cutting 4.5 death examiners from its staff.

John Eric Rolfstad, Executive Director of People’s Memorial Association a statewide nonprofit funeral organization stated “While many municipalities justify a cause of death review fee for cremation cases, we aren’t aware of anywhere in the country where they also charge a fee to review cause of death for burials.   This is clearly a case of trying to balance the budget on the backs of the bereaved.”

In the same letter where the Medical Examiner notified funeral homes about the extension of the fee, he also warned funeral homes about longer wait times for services due to reduced staffing.

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