Family wants answers after being forced to wait with loved one's body for over an hour

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by Mike Colombo / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on February 7, 2013 at 5:42 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 7 at 6:23 PM

(KMOV.com) -- A St. Louis County family says inaction by a medical examiner left them in a grueling and heartbreaking situation.

According to daughter Diane McKay, when her mother died, the family was forced to sit with the body for an hour-and-a-half.

“I feel it was insensitive,” she said. “It was... it was just crazy.”

In St. Louis city and County, hospice counselors have to notify the medical examiner when a patient dies.

The medical examiner has to issue a case number before the body can be removed. Somoments after declaring the death of McKay’s mother Montoria Sunday, her hospice establishment placed a call to the St. Louis city Medical Examiner’s Office.

“She calls, asks for the I.D. Number, some guy tells her, ‘we’re busy right now, someone just dropped off a bag of bones,’” said McKay. “She says, ‘ok, we’ll call you back.’”

The hospice worker waited; then called a second time, and a third time.

“So she calls ‘em back again, says, ‘can I speak to your supervisor?’ Click!” said McKay. The family waiting with the body for nearly an hour and 45 minutes. The mortuary  was on the scene, unable to take Montoria’s body until the ME office responded.

According toSt. Louis Medical Examiner Michael Graham, Sunday was an unusually busy day.

“Our investigator was on the way to a scene where he was called by police to investigate some skeletal remains that had been found,” Graham said. In addition, there was a fatal fire, and the office only had one investigator on duty.

Still, Graham says he feels for McKay and her family.

“Certainly we’re sorry for any distress that we caused them,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is add to somebody emotinoal burden at that particular time.”

Further complicating matters, the hospice worker called the wrong medical examiner. Montoria died in St. Louis County, meaning the worker should have called the St. Louis County examiner.

However, to spare the family any further delay, St. Louis city made the unusual decision to assume jurisdiction in the case.

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