There's an interesting story out of Washington state today....which will make you ponder about what has transpired in two hundred years.
There's a family that had a child born here with severe health issues....and the child died about an hour after birth. It is a sad event, which the relatives kind of expected severe issues and had geared themselves to an expected short life.
A few weeks passed and the funeral company passed on the necessary bill. Somewhere in the midst of this....was a $50 fee. The relatives went down and started to look over this fee. It's a King County medical examiner death fee.
The county examiner is required to review all deaths, and they've established a fee for this. The family sat there shaking their heads....the child lived for approximately an hour....and the county ended up with a $50 tax off that one hour.
The county folks started this with cremation situations back in 2007. They've now gone to the next step with all deaths. The logic? Well...the best they can say is that they'd like to be personally involved in the death process....as much as the hospital or personal doctor is presently, and get down to the real reasons why you passed on.
I sat there and pondered over this moment. Most hospitals that I know....always wrote up a death certificate and filed it....just like birth certificates....to explain what they thought of your cause of death. They'd stamp it official and it was given to you and the county office that handles stuff like this.
I kinda wondered why it's such a nice round number....$50. A guy could have six different contributing factors and died under strange or unusual conditions.....and the examiner man-hours might be a dozen hours, yet it's still just $50. You might have died from a Pepsi delivery truck....and it's $50. You could have died from alcohol poisoning....and it's $50.
The county noted that 13,000 folks died in 2010....it's their average number. The medical examiner's office says that over a three year period....they've actually found the cause of death to be different from the hospital or doctor's certificate, in 347 cases. That adds up to roughly 110 folks a year who are misclassified. But you really have to stand up and ask if the county examiner was really right in the 110 average cases each year....since there is no third audit of death. This might lead you to consider that someone in the future will be there to audit the audit to the death audit.
Somewhere in the middle of this news report....the county wanted everyone to know that a couple of other counties have made this a requirement...so they aren't alone. But this came off as a dimwit explaining why they were stupid in the first place....because there's another dimwit in the room as well. So it's ok to act stupid in this case.
I came to observe this. In 1811, if you died....the family typically had a wake....put your body up for display for friends and neighbors to come over and morn. They'd lead out the next morning and then perform the funeral. The local minister would say a few words, and someone would note the passing of the relative in the family Bible. That was it. In two hundred years.....we've come to a point where your passing has to be observed by a local government official and officially noted. That passing is now worth $50 to them. I would suspect in three years...it will began to slide up and be $75. It's a fee which will continue on.
Finally....this observation. If you wanted to avoid the $50 fee....you merely need to load Uncle Jimmy in a station wagon and drive him across the border to Oregon, and the local doctor's certificate would be enough. Yes, you can actually save $50 with $4 in gas....and dropping your relative off in another state to pass on. That's the silly part of a long and magnificent life, and a $50 tax.