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‘Agony and sorrow:’ Family says they weren’t allowed to see loved one after his death

RICHMOND, Va. -- Losing a brother three weeks ago has hit one Richmond family hard.

Cassandra Fogg and her family members say her brother Harry passed away on September 12 after collapsing in a Northside convenience store parking lot.

He was taken to the VCU Medical Center and by the time family arrived, they said hospital workers told them they had no record of their brother.

For hours as they waited, no one could tell them where he was.

Harry

"Agony, stress and sorrow," brother-in-law Clifton Steed said.

Eventually they learned that Harry's body was sent to the state medical examiner's office because the hospital had not been able to identify Fogg before his family arrived.

That protocol was explained to CBS 6 by someone in the medical examiner's office.

The family said no one from the hospital ever explained that to them.

Steed says his family was stunned when they contacted the medical examiner's office and requested to see the body so that they could identify him.

A representative explained to the family that was not protocol. They said in cases like this, staff members rely on scientific measures to identify the person through fingerprints, DNA, radiology and more.

Family members tell us after CBS 6 got involved, they did get a call from the chief medical examiner who decided to allow a family member to come down to the agency and view a photo of the person who was deceased.

Steed and the other family members said that will give them the peace of mind they are looking for.

Their other concern? Family members can't claim his body and set up a funeral service because he had no life insurance.

Fogg's body has been at the morgue for three weeks.

Relatives are now struggling to figure out how to pay for a burial.

"I probably called about 75 agencies. They said call social services, but they say we no longer have funds that assist burials. It's been that way since the summer," Steed explained.

CBS 6 Problem Solvers learned when a body is unclaimed after more than 10 days, the medical examiner's office will contact the jurisdiction where the person died.

A court order can be obtained and the law-enforcement agency can take possession of the body and have it cremated or buried.

Harry

That's something the family hopes won't happen, because they're desperate to say their goodbyes to a brother that they love.

CBS 6 reached out to the VCU Medical Center for a statement about their identification protocol. A hospital spokesperson said:

"If a patient under our care does not possess identification, it is difficult for family members to prove this relationship, so VCU Medical Center contacts authorities to identify the patient through fingerprinting. If the patient dies before being identified, VCU Medical Center contacts the Medical Examiner’s office and that office takes over custody of the remains and the identification process."

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