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Facing many unclaimed remains, officials seek to change law

November 16, 2021 GMT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia Medical Examiner’s Office is storing nearly 250 sets of unclaimed remains, some since the 1970s, according to a report that has prompted a legislative committee to recommend changes to the state law.

The West Virginia Legislative Auditor’s Office learned of the issue while reviewing how officials manage unclaimed or unidentified remains, news outlets reported. The office has 248 sets of remains that can’t be released to a final resting place.

The issue is that West Virginia doesn’t have a law that makes provisions for the disposition of unclaimed or unidentified remains, the report said.

Matt Izzo, administrator for the Medical Examiner’s Office, told the legislative post-audits committee on Monday that West Virginia is one of only a few states to not spell out what to do with remains that aren’t claimed.

“A great many states have paupers. potters, indigent — whichever label you prefer to put on it — mausoleums or cemeteries,” he said.

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He said the office is exceeding design capacity for both cold and frozen storage.

The Medical Examiner’s Office and the Legislative Auditor’s Office supported changes that would allow the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to give such remains a final disposition.

The committee adopted draft legislation that could be taken up next year.