OLR Research Report


July 24, 2009

 

2009-R-0281

FUNERAL DIRECTORS AND HANDLING OF DECEASED PERSONS

By: John Kasprak, Senior Attorney

You asked for information on state law requiring funeral directors to be involved with the deceased at some point in the burial or cremation process.

SUMMARY

Connecticut law requires a licensed funeral director or embalmer to be involved in a number of ways throughout the burial or cremating process including the death certificate; removal, burial and transit permits; removal of the body; and transporting, washing, and wrapping of the dead body. Specific requirements, established by statute and regulation (the state Public Health Code) address the responsibilities of funeral directors in case a communicable disease is present at the time of death. These laws date to the 1920s and 1930s and have been periodically changed or updated, including in the 2009 session.

DEATH CERTIFICATE

State law requires a licensed funeral director or embalmer in charge of the burial to complete the death certificate on a form provided by the Department of Public Health (DPH). The certificate must be filed by the funeral director or embalmer or their designees. They must obtain the personal data from the next of kin or the best qualified person or source available. Only a licensed embalmer can assume charge of the burial of a deceased person who had a communicable disease, as defined in the Public Health Code, at the time of death. In such a case, the embalmer must file a signed and sworn to affidavit, on a DPH form, stating that the body has been disinfected according to the code (CGS 7-62b (b)).

The medical certification part of the death certificate must be completed, signed, and returned to the funeral director or embalmer no later than 24 hours after death by the physician or advanced practice registered nurse in charge of the patient's care for the illness or condition which resulted in death (CGS 7-62b(c)).

REMOVAL, TRANSIT, AND BURIAL PERMIT

Under the law, the licensed embalmer or funeral director who assumes custody of a dead body must get a removal, transit, and burial permit from the registrar of the town in which the death occurred or the town in which the embalmer or funeral director has a place of business, (1) not later than five calendar days after death and (2) prior to final disposition or removal of the body from the state. The embalmer or funeral director assuming custody of the body and obtaining the permit from the registrar must file the death certificate (as described above) in person, through an electronic registry system, or by certified mail. The burial permit must specify the place of burial or other place of internment and state that the death certificate and any other certificate required by law have been returned and recorded (CGS 7-65; PA 07-104 changed a “burial transit removal permit” to a “removal, transit and burial permit”).

REMOVAL OF A BODY

Under Connecticut law, no person, except a licensed embalmer or funeral director, can remove the body of a deceased person. Once the body has been embalmed or prepared according to state statute and the Public Health Code, a licensed embalmer or funeral director may authorize an unlicensed employee to transport the body.

The law also specifies that only a licensed embalmer or funeral director can remove the body from this state to another until a removal, transit and burial permit has been issued as described above.

In the case of a deceased person who had a communicable disease at the time of death, the permit must certify that the body was prepared according to the Public Health Code requirements. This permit is sufficient to allow the burial of the body in any town other than the town where the person died, without a burial permit from the registrar of the town where the person is to be buried (CGS 7-69; Public Health Code, 19a-36-A36 to 44).

PREPARATION AND TRANSPORTATION OF DEAD BODIES

Public Acts enacted in 2007 (PAs 07-104, amended by PA 07- 252) established requirements for transporting, handling, and cleansing dead bodies. These acts set out a number of specific requirements addressing how a dead body must be transported, washed, embalmed, wrapped, and disinfected. The law also prohibits an embalmer or funeral director from removing a dead body from the place of death to another location for preparation until the body has been temporarily wrapped (CGS 19a-91(a), (b)).

A 2009 act makes an exception to these cleansing requirements when the person assuming custody of the body determines that doing so would be contrary to the deceased's religious beliefs or customs. The law still requires funeral directors to wash, embalm, or wrap a body as soon as practicable after it arrives at the funeral home if the person died from a communicable disease (PA 09-232; CGS 19a-91(c)).

JK:ro