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HB 1152: Hoffman Creates Corpse Disposal Rights

Carcass bills are the empty placeholder bills legislators throw into the hopper because they are too lazy to craft bills in a timely fashion or because they are trying to conceal the specifics of their nefarious proposals for as long as possible. But Representative Charlie Hoffman gives us a carcass bill that tells us exactly what he wants to do.

House Bill 1152 seeks to establish rights regarding the disposition of human remains. Prime sponsor Representative Hoffman places this new set of corpse disposal rights and responsibilities in SDCL Title 55 on Fiduciaries and Trusts. That’s the set of laws that help folks bury their money in South Dakota, so I suppose there’s some thematic fit.

HB 1152 hooks into our trust laws by specifying that soundly minded adults entering into pre-arranged funeral contracts laid out in SDCL Chapter 55-11 “may direct the location, manner and conditions of disposition” of their remains and funeral arrangements. Such direction may only be cancelled or changed by an agent designated in the contract or unless the cash the deceased leaves behind can’t cover the desired disposal.

But then HB 1152 turns to all the adults who die without telling us what to do with their carcasses and lays out a complete hierarchy of who gets to say burn ’em, bury ’em, or shoot ’em into space:

  1. An agent designated by the deceased in an affidavit provided by Section 4 of HB 1152.
  2. A person designated by federal Record of Emergency Date Form DD 93 by a member of the military who is killed in active duty.
  3. The surviving spouse.
  4. The sole surviving child, a majority of surviving children, or less than half of the surviving children if they can’t get hold of all the kids and know of no opposition to their bodily preferences.
  5. The surviving parent or parents.
  6. The surviving sibling or siblings.
  7. The surviving grandparent or majority of surviving grandparents.
  8. An appointed guardian.
  9. The personal representative of the estate.
  10. The next relatives in line by degree of kinship.
  11. The public officer, administrator, or employee responsible for cases that fall to the state or local government.
  12. Anybody else willing to take care of the body.

People in that hierarchy forfeit the right to dispose of the body if they are charged with murder or voluntary manslaughter in connection with the decedent’s death, if they don’t exercise their right within two days of notification or three days of the death, if they are married to the deceased but are in the process of dissolving the marriage at the time of death, or if a court rules them estranged from the deceased. The court may also jump in at any time to designate who gets to dispose of the body if the folks in the hierarchy can’t agree on reasonable, practical arrangements. HB 1152 wisely bars folks from swaying the court by offering to pay for the funeral costs.

HB 1152 frees funeral homes from any duty to investigate or figure out the disposal rights hierarchy; absent written objections from equal members of the hierarchy, funeral homes can proceed in good faith with the instructions provided by whatever party comes in to direct the disposal. If any dispute delays final arrangements, HB 1152 allows funeral homes to to refuse to handle corpses or to store the corpses and charge the final deciders for any extra embalming, refrigeration, and shelter.

So bring out your dead—Charlie Hoffman is ready with HB 1152 to tell you who gets to decide what to do with them.


  1. Donald Pay 2022-02-03 09:21

    Death was so easy when wolves ate us. That’s the way I want to go, by the way. Wolves can feast on my choice innards and leave the rest for the buzzards. I’ll become guano, feces, whatever and end up in prairie plants. But, I won’t get my wish, so I’ll probably take the burn route. There are cemeteries around here that lay you out naked in a very shallow unmarked grave so you can decompose naturally. I like that idea, but I’m a little shy, and don’t like the idea of being naked for eternity. What if, as in the Laura Nyro song, “it’s crazy cold way down there”? That song, by the way was written when Nyro was 17 years old. And she had mega-hits with other songs. When I die I want to come back as Laura Nyro.

  2. jerry 2022-02-03 10:11

    Charlie Hoffman once again got his “marching orders” from NOem. Dude has not had a single thought of his own since he almost wet himself. Career right wing politicos are all the same, they just follow directives from the boss.

  3. M 2022-02-03 15:13

    You mean I could be responsible for disposing of a distant relative’s body simply because I’m number 10 on the list?

  4. Mark Anderson 2022-02-03 18:07

    Well Donald, I’d go along with that but I don’t think wolves would eat you. Myself, I’m going to be fried and buried in a cemetery above Baltic , just above Aunt Annie’s old place on the Sioux River. She’s there along with my folks and grandparents and their parents. It was a toss between that and the cemetery just a few miles south at East Nidaros where my mother’s folks are at. Since I’ll be ashes, maybe both, I’ll ask the wife. Maybe some in Hosmer too.

  5. Porter Lansing 2022-02-03 18:33

    As a point of clarification on my above comment:
    What’s unique about two Colorado morticians being caught selling body parts is that selling body parts by a mortician in Colorado isn’t illegal.
    Odds are it isn’t illegal in South Dakota, either.
    The CO legislature is taking up the issue and working on the legislation to make such macabre behavior illegal.
    The family who’s relative was dismembered and sent to various places wants the parts returned but first to get information as to where the parts are.
    The morticians refuse to cooperate and don’t legally have to.

  6. Arlo Blundt 2022-02-03 20:20

    Well..I think Charlie had coffee or a toddy with his local undertaker and got an ear full of undertaker troubles. He went to Pierre to try to sort out the rules. Constituent service…period.

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