Medicolegal Investigation for Cremation Clearance: How and Why?

James R Gill, Holly G Olko, Maura E DeJoseph
American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology 2019 April 8
This study on cremation clearance examines whether physical inspections detect more unnatural unreported deaths than medicolegal investigations without inspections. We reviewed all deaths reported to the medical examiner for cremation clearance during 2 distinct years and compared subsequent amendments of death certificates after 2 different investigative methodologies (1 with and 1 without physical inspection). Of 10,367 deaths in 2012, there were 86 deaths (0.83%) in which the investigation with physical inspection resulted in amendments to the death certificate. Of 11,906 deaths in 2016 without physical inspection, there were 153 that resulted in amendments (1.3%) including 2 homicides. For the detection of accidents, there was no statistically significant difference (χ = 0.8119, P = 0.367552). For cremation investigations, the work effort and costs of performing physical inspections do not appear justified given the similar detection rates (approximately 1%) for unnatural deaths among the 2 groups. Both methods, however, do detect unreported unnatural deaths.

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