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This Missouri coroner removed COVID-19 from death certificates to honor grieving families

A coroner in a small Missouri county reveals why he took COVID-19 off death certificates.

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Family members gather outside at a hospital in Missouri.

Family members gather outside Daryl Barker’s window at Lake Regional Hospital in Osage Beach, Mo., on Monday, July 26, 2021. A coroner from a small county in Missouri reportedly removed COVID-19 as a cause of death from some death certificates after families members asked the coroner to do so, according to The Kansas City Star.

Sarah Blake Morgan, Associated Press

A coroner from a small county in Missouri reportedly removed COVID-19 as a cause of death from some death certificates after families members asked the coroner to do so, according to The Kansas City Star.

  • This apparently happened on about six or so death certificates, per The Kansas City Star. The county itself — Macon County — has about 15,000 residents.

Families requested the change because they didn’t want to be reminded of how they lost their loved one — specifically how they could not see their family member before they died because of COVID-19 restrictions in hospitals, per The Washington Post.

  • “A lot of families were upset. They didn’t want COVID on the death certificates,” the county coroner, Brian Hayes, told The Kansas City Star.

Hayes, who is a Republican elected official, said he only took COVID-19 off of the death certificate when there was a real alternative cause of death — like a heart attack, pneumonia or some other side effect.

  • “I won’t lie for them, it’s gotta be true, but I do what pleases the family,” Hayes told The Kansas City Star.

The decision to change the fatality information comes as COVID-19 cases are rising throughout the country, per CNBC. Coronavirus cases have risen across all 50 states as the delta variant continues to spread in the United States.

  • States like Florida and Louisiana have suffered the brunt of the delta variant so far.

Hayes’ decision is a sign that we may not know everything about how far the virus is spreading right now. More COVID-19 cases could be moving around out there, a sign that numbers may be worse than they are.

That’s why Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” at the end of July that he thinks we’re more advanced in the pandemic than we thought.

  • “We’re not doing a lot of testing. More of the testing that we are doing is antigen tests that are being done at home and not getting reported,” Gottlieb said. “So, I think we’re much further into this epidemic than we’re picking up and hopefully further through this epidemic.”