Commissioners approve coroner policy

In August of last year, the Fergus County Commissioners voted to combine the offices of coroner and sheriff. The two offices will become one, a combined sheriff/coroner, starting Jan. 1, 2019. According to the Montana Association of Counties, 38 counties in Montana have a combined sheriff/coroner position.

At their Dec. 11, 2017 meeting the commissioners unanimously approved a policy governing how coroner cases will be handled until the offices are combined. The policy covers procedures for the “transportation, refrig-eration and storage of dead human bodies or remains that are the subject of coroner cases,” and the compensation, if any, to be paid by the county.

In addition, the policy will serve to “mitigate prospective conflicts of interest.”

A main point throughout the agreement is that families have the right to choose where their loved ones are taken care of. A family’s choice for the final disposition of bodies or remains must be “free from any influence or persuasion” and that the family’s choice of mortuary  must be “honored without question.”

If the family has no preference as to which mortuary is used, then the body or remains will be sent to the mortuary on call, based on what the agreement refers to as “strict monthly rotation.” Any qualified mortuary in the county, upon request, may participate in the rotation.

The policy is to be signed by the county commissioners, Fergus County Coroner Dick Brown and Fergus County Sheriff Troy Eades.

As of Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, Commissioner Sandy Youngbauer said only the commissioners have signed the document so far. She expected the other signatures happen until after Jan. 1.

This year, 2018, marks an election year for county offices. Candidates running for sheriff or coroner will be running for the combined position, but the position will not become combined until the beginning of 2019.

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