~ by Keelia Carver
I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I am sobbing at my computer over a one-page hospital form.
St. Charles Hospital in Bend, Oregon has enacted a major change. It's a change I wish had been in place when my son Max was pronounced dead in their hospital and they refused to let us take him home for burial - which was our right under Oregon law.
The new Release of Body Form is intended for use when the hospital releases a decedent to a family member or friend instead of a paid funeral service provider. It is a simple form requiring name, relationship, and acknowledgement that the requestor will follow all state and federal laws when handling and disposing of the body.
With the creation of this Release of Body Form, St. Charles has ensured there is an easy way for any staff member to help a family take custody of their deceased loved one, whether to prepare them for burial or cremation, transport them, or spend time with them in a home viewing or vigil. Because it is in writing, the knowledge will remain accessible through staff turnover. The formal hospital documentation requirement provides reassurance of propriety for staff who may not be familiar with Oregon families’ right to care for their own dead. It's the much-needed policy document that supplements the improved family information sheet we celebrated in January.
The new release form and the expanded family information sheet represent marvelous things. These improvements, the result of never dropping the ball and continuing the work on this issue over an 18-month period, shows the longing of the human heart to do right. These changes reflect flexibility in a large bureaucratic institution. They're a tribute to the work of individuals in that institution, individuals who truly want to serve the families of their community. They showcase something that is so hard for us humans: the willingness to recognize a mistake and then do the work to correct it.
May these changes made by St. Charles help mothers, fathers, spouses and children. May they provide an opportunity for those who want to care for their own dead to do so. May they be widely copied by other hospitals and care facilities. May they prevent another situation like ours with Max, where misinformation and default practices kept a family from their child.