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Originally published April 3 2010

Bodies Stack Up in California Morgues as Families Can't Afford Burials

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Hard economic times have made the cost of cremation or burial prohibitive for many people, leading them to abandon the bodies of their loved ones to be disposed of in mass graves by the state.

The Los Angeles coroner's office has performed 187 more cremations in the past 12 months than it did in the year before that, an increase of 36 percent. The Los Angeles County morgue, likewise, has performed 25 percent more cremations than in the prior year. These cremations are performed only if no family member has come to claim a body within one month.

"The reason we are hearing from the families is the economic downturn," said Craig Harvey, chief investigator for the Los Angeles County Coroner. "They tell us they don't have the means to afford funerals."

Harvey said he has never before seen so many bodies left abandoned, even during prior recessions.

Claiming a body from the county morgue costs $200. After picking up a body, relatives may have to pay as much as $1,000 for a private cremation, while the average cost of a funeral is even higher -- $7,300.

If the morgue has already cremated a body, it charges relatives $425 to pick up the ashes. If no one comes to pick up the ashes within two or three months, they are tossed into a communal grave.

Even families who can afford to pick up their loved ones are cutting costs by holding less elaborate funeral ceremonies, according to Jessica Koth of the National Funeral Directors Association.

"We did a survey among our members, earlier this year, and most definitely reported that families were making different choices regarding funerals because of the economic downturn, choosing less expensive caskets and urns," Koth said.

The recession may have contributed to a jump in the popularity of cremations, which jumped from 23.6 percent of funerals in 1997 to 35 percent in 2007.

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