2012-06-10

Identity tags

Various coloured wrist tags.
    There is a common belief that in the funeral industry they use toe tags to identify the dead.  We see it all the time on TV and it is part of common language.  Yet this is not the case and would be rather impractical.  Here I explain how we actually identify a body and why this is the method we use and why we must use it.

    In Australia we use wrist bands to identify a body.  These wrist bands are exactly the same as the hospital use except simpler and hand written.  But their physical design is identical.  The wrist tage is plastic, has a series of holes to pick the right size and once fastened can only be cut off.

    Different companies use different coloured wrist tags and have different procedures concerning them.  Some use a certain colour to indicate there are valuables, others to indicate there is a pace maker and so on.  But generally the idea is the same, it is a band around the wrist with the persons name on it  to identify the body.

    A wrist band must be on a body at all times.  This should be a strickt procedure in every and all funeral homes which employees stick to.  The wrist band should also be put on when the body is picked up on the transfer.

    For whatever reason there is the idea that bodies are identified by a toe tag.  However if we used a toe tag to ID a body this would be very impractical, perhaps even impossible.  To check the ID the body would have to have the feet at the access point, be it the fridge door or the body bag zipper.  You have to check the ID quite often, to find the right body in a hospital fridge for example.  So the ID tag must be accessible.  Sometimes a doctor will want to see the face and ID tag on a body before signing the death certificate.  Other times the family will want to see the face for one last goodbye but not want to see an exposed body.

    To see the face one would have to expose the whole body because the ID tag, which is on the feet, was at the access point.  This means pulling the whole body out of the fridge and unzipping the entire body bag all the way from foot to head.  Not a very pleasant thing for grieving families.  Nor is it a very practical thing for busy undertakers or doctors.

    Instead a tag is strapped around the wrist and accessible from the head end of the body.  Just like when a patient is in a hospital.  Sometimes families take issue with the wrist tag and do not want any ID tags on the deceased.  But to them I say tough.  The ID tag was no different to when they were in the hospital (it might even be the exact same one) and it is essential.  There is no option, an ID tag must be on the body at all times to ensure things are done correctly.  If an undertaker says they have removed all ID tags they ere lying.  If they do in fact remove all ID tags they are incompetent and risk a mistaken identity.

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