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7 Bumps

What do you think of this? Family charged 'death tax' for baby who lived one hour

SEATTLE -- Olivia Clark lived for only one hour. Doctors didn't even expect her to survive birth.  Now her family has a hard time understanding why the King County Medical Examiner has to review her death and charge $50.

"With Olivia, there was so much love in that room and we knew it was going to be such a short time," says her grandmother, Diana Clark. "That was probably the most joyous hour that I've experienced."

Her grandparents say Olivia was polycystic and, as a result, her lungs never developed. So, her short life was a miracle.

"We were thrilled that she lived long enough that we could meet her alive and talk about her and see her while she was still alive," says Larry Clark, her grandfather.

Although her parents were from Yakima, they came to the University of Washington Medical Center for her delivery. As a result, Olivia died in King county. Her family soon learned the impact that would have when they received the funeral bill.

"There was a little line on there near the bottom of the bill that said 'King county death tax: $50.' And we looked at that, and looked at that and looked at each other and said 'what is that?' Couldn't believe that a little girl that lived for an hour has to pay a $50 tax," said Larry.

King County now requires a review of every death. The medical examiner instituted the $50 fee for cremations three years ago. This year, it included the fee for burials as well.

"The reason we do that is to make sure no one goes to the crematorium or to their grave without society and the family knowing exactly how their loved one died," says Gareth Johnson, King County Prevention Division Manager.

About 13,000 people die in King County every year. Over the last three years, the medical examiner's office discovered the cause of death in 347 cases were wrong and required further investigation, including two homicides. In half of those deaths, treatment was a contributing factor.

The Clarks understand some deaths need to be investigated. But in their opinion, not Olivia's.

"Every time I turn around the county appears to be nickel and diming us, putting a tax on this and a tax on that. Where does it end?" said Larry.

King County is the only county in the state that requires a review of every death. But a spokesperson for King County Public Health says other counties and jurisdictions are shifting toward this process.

Answer Question

Asked by grlygrlz2 at 1:15 PM on Jan. 13, 2011 in Politics & Current Events

Level 39 (106,530 Credits)
Answers (33)
  • That is wrong on every level!!!

    Answer by jen2774161 at 1:16 PM on Jan. 13, 2011

  • that made me cry, I'm just sayin'. I guess I can kind of see how they need to pay for the policies they keep but this feels insensitive and wrong. I feel like they could spread the death taxation out or... something. Wow, what a kick in the nuts.

    Answer by ashleyaction at 1:18 PM on Jan. 13, 2011

  • I guess a tax is a tax, no exceptions, right? That stinks for the family though.

    Answer by amybaby_19 at 1:18 PM on Jan. 13, 2011

  • Wow are they that hard up for money shame on them!!

    Answer by pinkdragon36 at 1:19 PM on Jan. 13, 2011

  • There should be some kind of loop hole. But, they'd have to hire an attorney to find the damned thing. Unless one hears the story, and does it pro bono. This is crap. They should be able to sign a waiver, since an ultrasound would have shown the deformity, which would be the cause of death. That should be just as good as what an autopsy would find. They know what the cause was, from the ultrasound. AND, are accepting of it.

    Answer by Raine2001 at 1:21 PM on Jan. 13, 2011

  • I do believe that this is wrong. I also think that the parents should be able to call and not have to pay this fee. While I feel they shouldn't have to do this, I understand that the county feels this is important.

    Anyway, my heart goes out to this family!

    Answer by cornflakegirl3 at 1:22 PM on Jan. 13, 2011

  • King County is the only county in the state that requires a review of every death.--

    sounds like King Co has found a legal way to tip themselves.

    Answer by dullscissors at 1:26 PM on Jan. 13, 2011

  • It's just typical government holding out their hand looking for a hand-out wherever they can grab it. There are so many of these tpyes of things out there that there isn't room to list them here. It all really pisses me off.

    Answer by specialwingz at 1:27 PM on Jan. 13, 2011

  • I dont think there should be a death tax at ALL, ANYWHERE.

    Answer by nsrush83 at 1:28 PM on Jan. 13, 2011

  • ridiculous!

    Answer by bouncingsoul at 1:30 PM on Jan. 13, 2011

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