A Consumer Guide to End-Of-Life Issues and Funerals

What arrangements can be made prior to death?

Some options include recording your funeral wishes, advising family members, and prearranging with your funeral director. Keeping important documents such as veteran discharge papers and insurance policies accessible can make final arrangements much easier for your loved ones.

What is the course of action at the time of death?

A spouse, next-of-kin, or a legal representative can usually make arrangements for final disposition. The normal sequence of events for handling a death is as follows:

  •  Death must be pronounced by a coroner, medical examiner, or attending  physician.
  •  Relatives are notified.
  •  The deceased’s funeral instructions, prepaid funeral contract, insurance policy and/or will are located.
  •  The funeral director is contacted.

What happens when death occurs out of state or country?

When a death occurs out of state or country, your local funeral director will know the requirements and arrangements that must be made, and may help prevent duplication of service costs.

Who must be notified when death occurs outside of a medical facility?

The coroner or medical examiner in the county where the death occurred must be notified immediately. He/she will conduct an inquiry into the cause and manner of death prior to the final disposition of the remains.

What are my options for final disposition?

Human remains can be buried, entombed, cremated, buried at sea, or donated for scientific study.

What is the purpose of embalming?

Embalming is the use of chemicals, internally and externally, to disinfect and temporarily preserve human remains. Though not required by South Carolina law, some funeral homes may have a public policy requiring embalming for remains held over 24 hours and/or for those people desiring open casket funerals or visitations.

How do I make arrangements for human remains donation to a medical school?

Arrangements for donation of human remains to a state medical school must be made directly to the medical facility by you prior to death. Listed below are two state medical schools that accept human remains in South Carolina:

   Department of Developmental Biology and Anatomy
   U.S.C. School of Medicine,
   University of South Carolina
   Columbia, SC 29208
   Medical University of South Carolina
   Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy
   Basic Science Building – Room 601
   173 Ashley Avenue
   Charleston, SC 29425

There may be a cost for transportation to the medical school; or a memorial service, if one is chosen. Also, the state medical school may be unable to accept a body upon death due to circumstances surrounding the death or limited space at the state medical school.

Can I donate my organs without donating my entire body?

Yes. Body organs may be donated with proper documentation and/or instructions made known to relatives or responsible persons.

Can I change my mind about donating my body or my organs?

At any time prior to death, a person can revoke his or her donation by alternate instructions to relatives or responsible persons or by destruction or cancellation of documents and all executed copies thereof.

Can human remains be cremated immediately following death?

South Carolina law prohibits cremating any human remains within 24 hours after death. Written permission from the next-of-kin, a coroner’s permit, burial-removal-transit permit, and a properly signed certificate of death must all be obtained prior to the cremation.

How are cremated remains properly disposed of?

Cremated remains may be disposed of in a number of ways: scattered on private property, scattered at sea, interred in a cemetery, placed in a niche in a columbarium, or kept by the family in their home.

Can a person be buried on private property?

There is no law in South Carolina prohibiting burial on private property. However, there may be certain health regulations or zoning ordinances that should be considered.