Below you will find a listing for most of the individual states governing bodies and agencies that are involved when a death occurs within their state. Within each state there are key aspects to the death industry like funeral service establishments, vital statistics, medical doctors, and in some cases a medical examiner or coroner. All of these partners and stake holders work together to ensure the memorialization of your loved one is carried out in an expeditious, legal, and ethical manner. In some cases, you may need to contact one of these agencies or governing bodies. To assist you in understanding each governing body, we have provided definitions for each below along with state-by-state links to their websites.
Board of: Mortuary Science, Funeral Service, Funeral Directors and Embalmers-This is usually a body at the state level consisting of representatives from the community, the funeral industry and others. They are typically in-charge of licensing funeral homes, funeral directors, crematories, and embalmers. The scope of their work is usually defined by the individual states statutes(laws) and they maybe of assistance if you feel you are dealing with a funeral service provider that is performing unethical or illegal practices.
Board of: Medical Examiners, Medicine, Medical Licensure- This state level board is typically responsible for licensing and disciplining medical doctors, doctors of osteopathic medicine, physicians assistance and possibly others. In many states the office of vital statistics must receive the cause of death information from the decedents primary care physician (or possibly another medical professional) prior to any type of funeral/disposition (burial, cremation, removal from state). There are federal standards that the physician should meet when filling out the decedents cause of death. In some cases if this cause of death does not meet these standards the family or funeral home must approach the physician to get the information necessary to cary on with disposition. In certain circumstances, this particular type of board may be useful. If the state law where the decedent died requires a particular physician to complete the cause of death and they are refusing to comply with the request, contacting this board might help. They should be able to point you in the right direction or assist in getting this accomplished. If there are illegal or unethical practices taking place they may request you file an official complaint so that they may take action on the individual physician.
Office of: The Medical Examiner, Chief Medical Examiner, Coroner-These particular agencies can be at the state or county levels of government, and only come into the fold if a decedent died under certain circumstances or their type of disposition (i.e. cremation) falls within their particular jurisdiction. Medical examiners and coroners are innately different in that coroners are elected officials that may have a background other than medicine, where as medical examiners are medical doctors and doctors of osteopathic medicine specializing in forensic sciences. These individuals have, the sometimes daunting task, of telling the story as to how someone died. The typical function they preform that effects the most citizens is the approval for cremation. Because cremated remains are unable to provide forensic evidence the medical examiner or coroner usually verifies the death does not need to be investigated before approving a cremation permit.
Office of: Vital Records, Vital Statistics-Most people know their office of vital records/statistics to simply issue birth, death and sometimes marriage certificates. From the outside this seems pretty simple, however there are a lot of steps, steak holders, and partners in the registration of these life events. Focusing on the registration of a death event can help you to better prepare for the passing of a loved one and understand what is taking place in this process. After one passes their family usually decides whether they will employ a funeral director to take care of all the administrative and directive tasks or if they will perform these functions on their own. No matter which path a family may choose the death is required to be registered so that heath statistics, demographics, and identification information maybe collected for the creation of a certified copy of the death certificate. As you may have already guessed there are a lot of individuals involved in this process, some of which can delay the disposition of the deceased. If you have a loved one that is chronically ill it is best to start the conversation with their primary care physician as to how the medical certification of death is to be carried out in your particular state. You may also want to contact your local or state office of vital records/statistics to clarify the process. This will ensure you are taking the right steps that are necessary.
Laws-It is important to remember that the laws governing the registration and funeral processes are created and maintained at the state level. Thus, the links below will direct you to the correct state agency for the questions you may have.
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) Rule is a federal regulation that ensures fair and ethical business practices within the funeral industry. The scope of this regulation can range from product pricing to the rights of the consumer. To learn more or to contact the FTC click here