Akron Organization Battles Growing Problem of Corpse Misidentification

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AKRON, Ohio — In the past year, two shocking incidents in Ohio-one in Columbus, the other in Dayton-caused public outcry and greater grief for the families involved because the deceased were mistakenly cremated. While these two cases caught regional attention, mistaken identification, from erroneous cremations to switched urns, happens far too often and goes unnoticed both in Ohio and across the nation.

The mistakes are most often a result of human error, such as forgetting to verify an identity, taking shortcuts or confusing similar names. With state inspections lacking required around-the-clock authentication, funeral homes and crematories would benefit greatly from an automated system that protects against mistakes. For this reason, Akron’s Cremation Society of Ohio is incorporating a checks-and-balance system on its own.

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The system weaves digital fingerprinting, video security and an online database into a coordinated effort that removes all chance of mistaken identities. To implement this program, the Cremation Society of Ohio partnered with Tulsa’s Cremation Safeguard, the first company to develop technology and security of this level.

The most critical way in which the Safeguard system eliminates mistakes and shortcuts is by requiring a body’s fingerprint scan at every step, from the initial arrival to the crematory, where the check-in and final process will not happen without a matching scan. The fingerprint is connected to an identification number, which is verified by the family when cremains are returned to them.

“This is about peace of mind for the families,” said Scott Mason, director of the Cremation Society of Ohio, “and the hope is that systems like this one will become the standard for funeral homes and crematories.” Among all Cleveland, Akron and Canton funeral homes, only Adams-Mason Funeral Homes and Cremation Society of Ohio-both directed by Mason-have been accepted to incorporate the Cremation Safeguard system.

The Cremation Society of Ohio will be partnering with crematories throughout Ohio to create a network of companies using Cremation Safeguard. After an interview process, the crematories will be able to incorporate new authentication procedures and offer these services to regional funeral homes.

For each of the past three years, Ohio’s cremation rate has risen faster than the national average. In 2009, one-third of those who died in Ohio were cremated. Ohio trails the national cremation rate average by less than four percent. With public education about cremation as an environmentally responsible choice and a decreasing amount of land for traditional burials, the Cremation Association of North America predicts that US cremations may draw even with traditional burials by 2015.

The Cremation Society of Ohio is located at 791 E. Market St. in Akron. Owned and operated by the Mason family, the Cremation Society of Ohio has helped local families since 1985. Complete preplanning and immediate assistance is available at 1-800-664-1012 or online at www.CremationSocietyOfOhio.com.

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