Maryland Office Of The Medical Examiner Cremates Woman Without Permission Depriving Her Two Grieving Sons Of An Opportunity To Say Goodbye.


Family Files Lawsuit Against The State Of Maryland For Unlawful Cremation Of A Disabled African American Woman Without Permission From Her Children.

Family Files Lawsuit

February 22, 2023, Prince Georges County, Maryland, the family of Patricia Hill has filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the State of Maryland and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for cremating Ms. Hill’s body without the permission or knowledge of her next of kin. Patricia Hill, a 57-year-old African American woman, was found deceased in a rental vehicle on April 21, 2022. Her body was taken by the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME). On May 10, 2022, an OCME employee contacted Ms. Hill’s son and informed him that the body was scheduled for the “anatomy board.” The son stated his preference to have the body released to a funeral home. The OCME employee assured him the body was still available. However, on May 11, 2022, the family learned from the funeral director that Ms. Hill’s body had already been cremated without their consent or knowledge. The lawsuit alleges that the OCME’s actions caused severe emotional distress and trauma to Ms. Hill’s family. The family is seeking monetary damages to compensate for their suffering and anguish.

The family’s attorneys Kim Parker and Governor Jackson stated “The unnecessary and unlawful cremation of our client’s loved one has caused immense and irreparable emotional pain and suffering. Cremating a deceased individual against the wishes of the next of kin goes against basic human decency and violates legal and ethical norms. Our clients are distraught that their last chance to say goodbye and pay final respects has been taken from them. No child should have to endure such callous disregard for their grief and loss. The pain caused by this wrongful cremation can never truly be undone. But we will do everything within the power of the law to ensure those at fault are held responsible and that no other family has to suffer the same injustice”

Cremation errors where the wrong body is incinerated, or cremation occurs without consent from next of kin, happen with disturbing frequency. These incidents leave grieving families with further trauma and without the chance to properly lay their loved one to rest. Cremation misidentification is a serious issue that highlights the need for improved processes and technology in the death care system.

According to available estimates, cremation misidentification occurs frequently across the country. In many cases, families do not find out about the mix-up until after cremation has already occurred. The consequences can be devastating for those who were expecting to hold a funeral and inter their loved one. Factors that contribute to cremation misidentification include paperwork mix-ups, improper identification of remains, and unauthorized cremation requests. Mortuaries and crematories often rely on manual paperwork systems that are prone to human error. Identification checks prior to cremation, if they occur at all, are often cursory. In some tragic cases, bodies have been cremated without any notification to the next of kin.

Advocates argue that the death care industry needs to implement modern technologies like barcode scanning and electronic record systems to reduce misidentification errors. More stringent identification protocols before cremation authorization could also help, such as using fingerprint or dental record matching. Families should also be educated about the risks and encouraged to double check all paperwork and identification processes.

In the end, even one case of cremation misidentification is too many when it means further torment for families already struggling with loss. With improved processes, oversight and technology, the death care system can and should do better to prevent these tragic incidents going forward.

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