Morbid obesity in America is leading to a morbid end-of-life problem for coroners across the country.
With more than one third of U.S. adults overweight, standard body bags are too often too small to do the job.
“More and more we’re having to deal with larger and larger people,” says Mark Stratmoen, Coroner of Fremont County Wyoming.
And because the coroner handles more obese people, they’ve had to upgrade to larger body bags.
“It’s not a Fremont County problem, it’s not a Wyoming problem, it’s a national problem. We order larger capacity things because that’s now the standard size that’s being offered.”
The body bags they buy now are eight feet by three and a half. That means one can fit somebody six feet in circumference.
“Back in the 80’s and 90’s there were only a few states where 15 percent of the population would fit the category or the diagnosis of obesity and now there are no states that are less than 30 percent that fit the criteria and there are 12 states where more than 40 percent of the state fits the criteria for obesity,” says Dr. David Bender of the Wind River Clinic
Fremont county’s obesity rate is around 26 percent.
Bender says the most prominent cause is eating too much sugar and starch and considers sugar an addictive substance.
“An addicting substance is something that we all know is bad for us, but some people have a very difficult time avoiding going out and consuming.”
The growing epidemic is causing stress for the coroner’s deputies.
“Material costs are more expensive obviously,” says Stratmoen. “It puts more stress on doing the job, we have to have more assistance sometimes when doing a recovery.”
Over the years, bender says he’s seeing patients get younger and younger.
“It’s been projected with the current diabetes epidemic in children and obesity epidemic that this will be the first generation that may not live as long as preceding generations due to health issues associated with this problem.”