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Thursday, August 6, 2009

How Bad is the Recession? Send Out your Dead: Unclaimed Corpses Accumulate in Morgues

Unclaimed dead stack up in Wayne County morgue | | The Detroit News
His corpse lies at the bottom of a pile of other bodies unclaimed at the Wayne County morgue. But Grandpa -- whose name has been withheld to avoid embarrassing his family -- is a special case. He has been in the cooler for the past two years as his kinfolk -- too broke to bury him -- wait for a ship to come in.

"There is destitution," says Dr. Carl J. Schmidt, the chief medical examiner of this, the nation's poorest big city. "But when you're so destitute that nobody has claimed you, that's a whole different level of being destitute."

Peering into the small glass window of the cooler door, Schmidt counts 52 unclaimed bodies stacked like cordwood -- in some cases four to a shelf; always two to a gurney.

Generally, the economic well-being of a municipality is measured by unemployment rates and quarterly earnings reports. But Schmidt's cooler may say as much about metropolitan Detroit's financial health as any statistics released by the Federal Reserve.

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