Anthony Bernstein died at St. Anthony's Hospital on September 20, 2007, but his family said they did not find out he had died and had been cremated until 2009.
St. Anthony's Hospital said when a person passes away at the hospital and next of kin cannot be notified, the staff will exhaust all resources to try and track down a family member.
A family member was never contacted, so Anthony's body was turned over to Oklahoma County Social Services, who obtained a cremation permit from the M.E.'s office.
Anthony's family said they are blaming the M.E.'s office since the agency issued the cremation permit.
By Rusty Surette, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- A family is still trying to figure out exactly how and why they weren't notified that their son had died and was cremated without their permission until two years later.
Anthony Bernstein's family said they blame the State Medical Examiner's Office because that's the agency that signs off on cremation permits, and while that is true, it was not their responsibility to notify family.
Amber Bernstein said her son Anthony went missing in 2007, and it wasn't until last year that the family learned of his death and cremation, which was Amber said was even more disturbing because of her Jewish faith.
"That's all I thought about ever since. They burned him, just like Hitler," Amber Bernstein said.
What happened to Anthony in 2007 begins at the Oklahoma County jail. He was picked up and held there for violating a probation order on an old drug charge, but ten days later a judge signed off on a bond allowing for his release because Anthony was ill. He was so ill that he checked himself into St. Anthony's hospital, and on September 20, 2007, he died.
A spokeswoman for St. Anthony's declined to talk about this case, but said when a person passes away at the hospital and next of kin cannot be notified, the staff will exhaust all resources to try and track down a family member.
But in Anthony's case, no family member was ever told of his death. So the next step was to turn his body over to Oklahoma County Social Services.
"If we have a body that means we need to take care of the person. They need to be buried or cremated, whatever the case may be," said Victoria Nubine, Oklahoma County Social Services.
Because next of kin couldn't be found, Social Services then contacted a funeral home to begin the cremation process, but before that happened, the Medical Examiner's office signed off on a cremation permit. It's all part of a routine process, one that took Amber Bernstein by surprise.
"Somebody needs to pay for what they've done. That is a life. My son was a person. He was a human, but he wasn't treated like a human, even if he did something wrong many years ago," Amber Bernstein said.
Even though it was the hospital's responsibility for tracking a family member down, the attorney for the Bernstein family said the M.E.'s office is to blame because that agency has the final say in all cremations in the state of Oklahoma.
The Bernsteins said they do plan to seek legal action.
A spokesperson for the M.E.'s office insisted the agency did nothing wrong.
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