Wednesday, June 14, 2006


The Unclaimed Dead

Dave Haxton at MacRaven links to a horror story about families in Ohio who refuse to claim bodies from funeral homes, because they don't want to pay the costs of burial.

In a more civilized time and place (ancient Athens), there was a law regulating this sort of thing, quoted by Demosthenes 43.57-58 (tr. A.T. Murray):
And when persons die in the demes and no one takes them up for burial, let the Demarch give notice to the relatives to take them up and bury them, and to purify the deme on the day on which each of them dies. In the case of slaves he shall give notice to their masters, and in the case of freemen to those possessing their property; and if the deceased had no property, the Demarch shall give notice to the relatives of the deceased. And if, after the Demarch shall have given notice, the relatives do not take up the body, the Demarch shall contract for the taking up and burial of the body, and for the purification of the deme on the same day at the lowest possible cost. And if he shall not so contract, he shall be bound to pay a thousand drachmae into the public treasury. And whatsoever he shall expend, he shall exact double the amount from those liable; and if he does not exact it he shall himself be under obligation to repay it to the demesmen.

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