Friday, November 20, 2009

Unburied bodies tell the tale of Detroit — a city in despair

This evening we're going to vicariously take another trip to Detroit. We've been taking momentary journeys there as of late this year since I paid a visit to this struggling city this past summer. In addition to that we've looked at the politics of the city although recently we haven't taken a very close look at Detroit politics.

In Chicago there has been a debate over the transport of dead bodies, but Detroit has the problem of unclaimed corpses:
The abandoned corpses, in white body bags with number tags tied to each toe, lie one above the other on steel racks inside a giant freezer in Detroit’s central mortuary, like discarded shoes in the back of a wardrobe.

Some have lain here for years, but in recent months the number of unclaimed bodies has reached a record high. For in this city that once symbolised the American Dream many cannot even afford to bury their dead.

“I have not seen this many unclaimed bodies in 13 years on the job,” said Albert Samuels, chief investigator at the mortuary. “It started happening when the economy went south last year. I have never seen this many people struggling to give people their last resting place.”

Unburied bodies piling up in the city mortuary — it reached 70 earlier this year — is the latest and perhaps most appalling indignity to be heaped on the people of Detroit. The motor city that once boasted the highest median income and home ownership rate in the US is today in the midst of a long and agonising death spiral.
Hmmm, they used to have pauper graves don't they. For those who can't afford the services of an undertaker:
Then in June, the $21,000 annual county budget to bury Detroit’s unclaimed bodies ran out. Until then, if a family confirmed that they could not afford to lay a loved one to rest, Wayne County — in which Detroit sits — would, for $700, bury the body in a rough pine casket at a nearby cemetery, under a marker.

Darrell Vickers had to identify his aunt at the mortuary in September but he could not afford to bury her as he was unemployed. When his grandmother recently died, Mr Vickers’s father paid for her cremation, but with a credit card at 21 per cent interest. He said at the time it was “devastating” to not be able to bury his aunt.

What has alarmed medical examiners at the mortuary is that most of the dead died of natural causes. It is evidence, they believe, of people who could not afford medical insurance and medicines and whose families can now not afford to bury them.
That last paragraph. Making a case for universal health care? We're living in some unusual times, ultimately they will get better. Economic cycles are cyclical, even though Detroit has been struggling for years. Even then times weren't this difficult where a municipality or a government hasn't been able to bury bodies of people who are unable to afford the services of an undertaker.

Hat-tip Newsalert!

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