Dead bodies are no longer being accepted by Muskogee Regional Medical Center in an effort to cut down on paperwork and hospital employee time.

That has resulted in from one- to more than three-hour delays in getting bodies removed from highways or residences.

“No one, let alone loved ones, need to see something like that,” said Muskogee County Sheriff Charles Pearson. “We’re supposed to be in the business of taking care of people.

“We need the hospital to accept these bodies — like they used to.”

For years, Muskogee County Emergency Medical Service had been removing dead bodies from the scene of wrecks or other sites and taking them to MRMC’s morgue.

MRMC said stopping the practice put them in line with other hospitals.

“We’re now operating like all other hospitals — we’re now doing it like everybody else,” said MRMC Co-CEO Dr. Lee Taylor. “We’re in compliance with how medical examiners are operating in Oklahoma.”

State Medical Examiner Chief Investigator Kevin Rowland said MRMC was one of the few hospitals in the state offering the service at the time it stopped the practice.

“We’ve got some people in training to take care of the problem over there,” Rowland said.

When two more medical examiner investigators are trained, it should help time wise, he said. The medical examiners will go to the scene of a death, contact either a funeral home to remove the body or a transport service from Tulsa to take the body to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Tulsa for an autopsy, Rowland said.

“It’s a good program if we had plenty of medical examiners,” Pearson said.

The Phoenix received several calls from people concerned about seeing the body of a man killed in a motorcycle/pickup accident being left on the side of U.S. 69 at Hancock Street for more than two hours on the hot afternoon of Sept. 9.

“Two hours is a little long, but not unreasonable,” Rowland said. “It doesn’t happen that way every time.”

A week later, the body of a teenage bicycle rider killed in a collision with a semi lay on the side of the road south of Okay for at least an hour and 15 minutes.

When a loved one is lying dead on the roadside for longer periods, more friends and relatives are showing up — and it’s a horrendous scene, Pearson said. It’s also a safety hazard, he said.

Also, law enforcement and EMS employees are staying at accident sites longer because they can’t leave dead bodies lying on the side of the road, Pearson said.

Rebecca Smith, spokeswoman for Emergency Medical Services in Muskogee, explained how the new routine works.

“We (EMS employees) notify law enforcement, they notify (Oklahoma Highway Patrol) Troop C dispatchers, who notify the (state) medical examiner and then the M.E. makes arrangements for transportation of the body.”

But a medical examiner has to visit the site first.

In recent months, the Phoenix has observed that some dead bodies have remained at the family home for more than three hours. Pearson said he was present when it was about four hours before the next of kin could be located and a funeral home called.

Relatives were coming to the home. To have the body present was very disturbing to those loved ones, he said.

Reach reporter Donna Hales at 684-2923 or dhales@

React to this story:


Trending Video