Exhumations are generally considered a sacrilege in most cultures. As a result they are very rare. However, in some situations, particularly when investigating a murder, exhumation becomes an unfortunate necessity. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the exhumation, there are many legal steps that must be taken before permission can be granted by local governmental and religious authorities.
Apply for the appropriate exhumation license. There is a lot of legal red tape that must be negotiated before the exhumation of a body. The two basic licenses that must be applied for and granted are an exhumation license and a license from a religious official.
Obtain the permission of local religious authorities. Because many graves are on consecrated ground, religious officials must be notified and their permission must be granted in order to legally exhume a body.
Employ an environmental health officer. Even with the appropriate documentation, many counties require the presence of an environmental health officer to ensure that the exhumation is properly respectful and that public health is protected.
Arrange a time for the exhumation and have authorized experts present to exhume the body. Normally this happens very early in the morning to ensure maximum privacy.
Follow the day-of instructions of the environmental health officer. It is the responsibility of the overseer of the exhumation (likely an environmental health officer in most cases) to ensure that the correct grave is opened, that the name on the casket matches the public records on the person being exhumed, that the plot be screened for privacy, that those exhuming the corpse wear the appropriate protective gear and that both the remains and the old casket be transported in a new casket.
Relocate the body into a new casket, and move to the medical examiner's office (in the case of an investigation) or to a new burial site (in the case of gravesite relocation).
Re-bury the body.
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