Disturbing Mass Burial for Unclaimed Bodies in Detroit

mass burial

Funerals are not always a sentimental way to say goodbye to loved ones. In fact, what happens to the bodies of people who have passed away, but have not been identified by family members, is somewhat disturbing and shocking. Due to financial circumstances in Detroit and the high cost of a typical funeral, the unclaimed bodies are held for a certain amount of time before they are given a mass burial, stacked in what is termed a “quad burial.”

mass burialThis has recently been made clear in Detroit, where hundreds of bodies had been kept frozen at the Wayne County morgue. In fact, they needed a second room to store the bagged, frozen bodies. 200 bodies were released from the morgue after going unclaimed. With no family around to bury the person and give hem a proper funeral, they are disposed of in the most cost-effective way.

The financial aspect is a huge deciding factor in how to handle the unclaimed bodies. The bodies of homeless people and others who have gone unclaimed have been known to remain frozen at the morgue for a year and a half to two years. The main reason being that the city of Detroit is under a financial hardship and the burials can get quite costly. Legally, the morgue is not allowed to cremate the bodies and what is considered a cheap burial can run around $750. Though donations are always encouraged and accepted, the cost of burying 200 bodies would be close to $150,000.

Therefore, bodies are placed in individual wooden boxes and taken by van to a Canton cemetery where they are laid to rest. They do not get a ceremony of any kind, however. They are stacked together, four on top of each other, and buried in sets of 12 in a mass burial. These are known as “quad burials” and are the cheapest way to dispose of bodies. Each set of 12 boxes are set closely together in the ground. Once set in place, they are covered in dirt and the crews move just a few feet over to bury another set of 12 bodies. They are not given flowers or a headstone. In fact, once the grass and weeds take over the topsoil, there is no indication that the bodies are even buried there. While these mass burial lack dignity and make a sad statement about society, the economic burden of burying these unclaimed bodies cannot be overlooked.

No one should have to be included in a mass burial. It strips the person of their life’s meaning and suggests that no one cared about them. This is not always the case though. Like the city of Detroit, families are also going through financial hardships, in most cases, and avoid getting involved because they simply cannot afford a funeral. On the bright side, there is a group of volunteers who have taken it upon themselves to honor the lives of these unclaimed bodies. Though they never knew the people, they still visit the grave sites in an effort to show that someone cares and their lives meant something.

By Tracy Rose


WDIV Detroit
WDIV Detroit

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