Local News

Family At Odds With WakeMed, Cremation Service

Posted January 20, 2006 8:58 a.m. EST

— For the second time in a week, a local family says it had trouble getting a baby's remains from a cremation service used by local hospitals.

Zanetta and Mike King have only a pink urn full of ashes to remember their daughter Jessica by. She was born prematurely and died on Oct. 30 at Western WakeMed. The death is a tragedy, but what happened next tried the Kings' strength even more.

"It's just been a very difficult time for me and my husband, emotionally and physically," said Zanetta King, Jessica's mother.

The Kings signed a document at the hospital agreeing to have their daughter's remains cremated and were told it should take about four weeks. WakeMed provides the service free through the Cremation Service of the Carolinas.

The Kings did not hear anything for six weeks. They say after making many calls, they asked Secretary of State Elaine Marshall's Office to intervene and finally got answers.

"I really blame WakeMed for everything that has happened at this point because I left my child in their care," Zanetta said.

"I want to apologize to the King family for the delay in getting the remains released from the hospital," said Kathleen Privette, head of Women and Childrens' services for WakeMed.

After WRAL asked questions, Privette did research and said an employee didn't transfer the remains because they thought the file was not complete, without an autopsy report. Privette said, in fact, the file was complete the day after the baby died.

"We own this problem. The delay was related to WakeMed. It was a clerical error," Privette said.

The Kings' ordeal did not end with the hospital. They said they then had trouble getting their child's ashes from the cremation service.

"We don't want to cause any anguish on the part of the mother especially," said Larry Parker, owner of the Cremation Society.

Parker plans to meet with representatives of WakeMed at the end of the month to see if the form parents fill out and the process can be improved to make sure it does not happen again.

"Yes, I think some procedures can be tightened up. Improvements can be made," Parker said.

"It was so important to us that we could bring closure to this, so that we could move on," King said.

The hospital says it will add an administrator's number as a contact on the form parents sign so they have someone to call if they have questions or problems.

Both WakeMed and the Cremation Society say it is possible and it is their goal to make sure the process can be done in most cases in four weeks. They will meet on Jan. 27 to talk about these and other issues related to improving the program.

Earlier in the month, a

Wake Forest family

filed a complaint with the state Board of Funeral Service and Better Business Bureau alleging a funeral home did not return their daughter's ashes in a timely manner.