Burial delayed, doctors refuse to sign death certificate

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The past month has been difficult for the King family.

"We're not sleeping, said Ernestine King. "This has caused due stress."

King's sister died unexpectedly. It has been more than a month since they have seen her. The family hasn't had a chance to identify her, or even bury her. To make things worse for King, another one of her sisters died from cancer last year.

In March, her sister died in her apartment and her body was transported to the city-supported funeral home, not the medical examiner.

"The lady at the Medical Examiner's office came out and advised us they did not have the body, it was transported to Eternity (Funeral Home)," said King.

Then they learned there was a bigger issue. Who is going to sign the death certificate -- an attending physician (since she was diabetic) or the ME?

"No one wants to sign the death certificate," she said. "There has to be someone over someone that can do this."

In the meantime, the family paid to have the body moved from Eternity to Buggs-Bellamy funeral home.

"On the 28th we did have a memorial service without the body," said King.

Wilbur Bellamy, funeral director at Buggs-Bellamy, said he is now working to get a signature on the death certificate.

"This particular case because of the length of time is very unusual," said Bellamy.

Bellamy said the process would normally take a week at the most. He has contacted another of Deborah King's doctors for a signature.

"That doctor has 72 hours to get the information back to me," he said.

In the meantime the family waits for closure, until then their loved one remains in a funeral home.

"What are we suppose to do with our sister? are we suppose to let her just sit there?" asked King.

The family was notified at the time of death by police, but the caller failed to left a message as to who they should call for more information. The family said that caused a delay in the process.

As for who is responsible for the death certificate issue, the law is clear.

Charles Griggs, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health, said it is the responsibility of the doctor who treated the decedent during the past 12 months preceding the date of death.

Griggs said If nothing happens with this latest attempt, the family's recourse is to refer to Medical Examiner.


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