(WSVN) - Most people know that if a family member is in the hospital with the coronavirus, you can’t visit, but after one family member died of COVID, his family wasn’t allowed to see his body to confirm the right person was going into his casket. Is that legal? It’s why they called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Nothing can be worse than death, but for Francisco Chirino’s family, it did get worse.
Cindy Sanchez, Francisco’s granddaughter: “We were never able to see my grandfather while he was in the hospital because of the COVID situation.”
Francisco was sent to the hospital where they determined the 87-year-old had the coronavirus.
Lazaro Chirino, Francisco’s son: “Then, what, 24 hours later, they called us, and they said that he’s dead.”
After Francisco passed away, Cindy asked to see her beloved grandfather’s body to confirm he was dead.
The hospital and funeral home both said no.
Cindy Sanchez: “Could I not see my grandfather for just one minute, or someone in my family, to identify that we’re not putting some unidentified person into a crypt? We have no idea who is going into that box.”
Since Francisco had prepaid for the burial, Cindy asked the funeral home to let a family member step in for one second when they embalmed his body to confirm it was him.
She got more distressing news.
Cindy Sanchez: “This funeral director told me that he will not be embalmed.”
When the mausoleum found out the funeral home was not embalming COVID victims, they delivered another blow.
Lazaro Chirino: “The cemetery is basically telling us they will not place him in the mausoleum if he’s not embalmed.”
Cindy was then told the person who was transporting the body from the hospital to the funeral home offered to open the body bag and snap a picture of Francisco’s face … for $300.
Lazaro Chirino: “You’ll die for $300, but you won’t let us identify the body? It really makes no sense.”
Deaths are a nightmare. This nightmare just won’t end.
Cindy Sanchez: “They need to let me see the body so I can identify my grandfather is in the casket.”
Lazaro Chirino: “Why can’t we see him? He’s not breathing, he’s not sneezing, and he’s not coughing.”
Do you have a right to see a family member who has passed away from the coronavirus? Howard?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Yes, you do. No matter what the person dies from, Florida law gives the next of kin, which is called the legally authorized person, the right to possess the body, and that includes seeing it, but not at the hospital. You have to wait until the body is transported to the funeral home or medical examiner’s office to view them.”
Howard, some more questions. An association is requiring residents to give 48 hours notice if a visitor is coming. Can they do that?
Howard Finkelstein: “A board can adopt rules that are well-defined and clear, but this is too broad. It does not provide for emergencies, and I do not believe this is legal.”
He works in the kitchen at a fast food restaurant and has heart disease and diabetes. An employee got COVID, and the owner didn’t tell them. Do they have to disclose that?
Howard Finkelstein: “They cannot tell you who tested positive, but they have to tell you someone you work with did. If they don’t, they are violating federal requirements, and you can file a complaint with OSHA. The link is at wsvn.com under this Help Me Howard story.”
Cindy Sanchez: “We want closure.”
And Cindy got it. The funeral director told me they stopped embalming COVID victims after one of her employees became infected with coronavirus and died.
Cindy then contacted another funeral home who agreed to embalm Francisco and take a picture for free to confirm for the family it was Francisco.
Francisco was then laid to rest a few days later inside the mausoleum he had paid for. The family nightmare has ended.
Cindy Sanchez: “We want to make sure that no other families goes through what we’re going through.”
Lazaro Chirino: “We do understand the issue of the pandemic and the coronavirus and all of that, but I think it’s unjust.”
Just when you think you’ve heard every COVID problem, another one pops up. They just never seem to end.
Howard Finkelstein: “And if you have problems with the coronavirus or questions you need answered, give us a call. We are here for you.”
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