Just a short two weeks ago, CNN News reported that a Riverdale, Maryland funeral home was under investigation for the tasteless and shameful treatment of bodies.
Chambers Funeral Home received an unannounced visit from a state inspector who discovered an estimated 40 body bags haphazardly stacked close by. During a routine inspection of a refrigerated area located in the garage, the inspector noted:
…a “large pile, approximately 12 by 12 feet, of body bags containing human remains strewn on the floor of the garage in front of a removal van. There was visible leakage from the body bags as well as a pungent odor.”
The inspector also noted in his report that he had been informed by an employee, who remains unnamed, not to be alarmed by the number of bodies in the area.
The Baltimore Sun reported that many of the identification tags were no longer attached to the body bags. Many tags were found loose within the pile, and damaged by the body fluids leaking from the bags. Co-owner of Chambers Funeral Home, Thomas Chambers, claimed that the tags were not necessary and that the bodies could be identified through the process of eliminaton.
Chambers’ owners claimed many of the bodies were cadavers received from Georgetown University’s School of Medicine awaiting cremation. The school had contracted with the funeral home to remove and cremate the bodies. William Chambers, a second co-owner of the funeral home, stated that this led to many cadavers arriving at once; although this practice was discouraged, it was agreed upon.
Stephen Mitchell, Georgetwon University’s dean of medical education, confirmed that the university had contracted with the funeral home, but the school had never been informed of these ‘handling’ problems. In another statement, Mr. Mitchell claimed:
The School of Medicine’s contract with the Chambers Funeral Home specifically outlines the school’s requirements that the remains be treated in a ‘respectful and organized manner.’ It appears that this was not the case in this instance.
As a result of the state inspector’s findings, the Maryland State Board of Morticians and Funeral Directors enacted an emergency suspension of the licenses of both Thomas and William Chambers’ as well that of Chambers Funeral Home as a business.
The president of the state funeral board provided the funeral home three days to complete the cremations and all additional funeral arrangements. The funeral home was closed Saturday, May 8, 2010.
Althought the funeral home was closed, the owner’s feel very differently about the decision.
William Chambers, one of the funeral home’s owners, said he would fight the license suspension at a hearing at the end of the month.
“We felt we handled things appropriately, but the board felt differently…” “We have limited space, and things were in disarray. It was unacceptable.”
The actions of Chamber’s Funeral Home and Crematorium were just that, unnacceptable. Coincidentally, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law on May 4, 2010 a reform of state crematory regulation. The law will be enacted beginning October 1 and will provide additional regulation of such institutions to prevent similar occurances.