How do you know if someone is dead?
January 8, 2008 4:45 PM   Subscribe

How do you know if someone is dead?

My roommate was just told that his friend died during some kind of military training. Two other friends were listed as the emergency contacts/next of kin as the purportedly deceased was not in contact with his family. They both received phone calls notifying them of the death.

However, the apparently dead friend had spoken in the past of faking his death. And no one knows were the body is. Or how exactly the guy died. People are torn between being sad and being angry. Where does one go to verify someone's death? How do you know if someone is really dead or just faking it? (This is in Ontario)
posted by Felicity Rilke to Human Relations (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
If the military hasn't tried to make arrangements with anyone for having the body shipped "home" for burial, I'd think this was a fake.
posted by orange swan at 4:51 PM on January 8, 2008


I doubt the army would be involved in any kind of hoax. And I find it extremely unlikely they'd report anyone deceased without being pretty damn sure. Deserted or MIA are perfectly good things to insert instead...
posted by Brockles at 4:56 PM on January 8, 2008


Military records are public information.

Just follow directions here and request his record.
posted by beagle at 4:57 PM on January 8, 2008


Beagle: I think the guy was probably in the Canadian army.

As far as how to find this sort of information, I know nothing of the system in Canada but assume that, as in the US, death records are public records.
posted by ecab at 5:06 PM on January 8, 2008


Do a Google search on "Social Security Death Index" and that should tell you - assuming the person had an SS number and is American. I don't know how often they update, but it's not terribly long after one's death.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:09 PM on January 8, 2008


Sorry, just read that he was probably Canadian.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:10 PM on January 8, 2008


Best answer: (former Canadian Forces clerk speaking here) :

Because of DOAD 2008 3 you can be sure that an investigation was initiated and or completed. The NIS while be the ones doing the investigation, from beginning to end. You can either get in touch with the NIS directly (see the bottom of the previous link) or if you have any information that might be pertinent to the investigation, I suggest calling the orderly room of the regiment and tell the clerk who answers that you wish to speak to the Captain Adjutant. Tell them what you know and they'll take things from there.

I can give you more specifics to answer your "How do you know if someone is really dead" question, but the short answer is the NIS are the ones who will be answering that question.
posted by furtive at 5:11 PM on January 8, 2008


A bit more helpfully, a bit of googling and you find a bunch of pay options, and I can't evaluate those for Canada. I have an account on a public records search site that I used to use for some contract work, but it only has American records. In America at least, death certificates can usually be found physically at the county/city level where the death occurred, and the Social Security Administration also keeps a master death list pegged to SSN numbers - there may be something similar to that in Canada, but if you aren't somewhere where you can physically go look it up you will probably have to pay.
posted by ecab at 5:12 PM on January 8, 2008


Best answer: Sorry, i bunged up that first paragraph a bit, here's the corrected version:
You can either get in touch with the NIS directly if you have any information that might be pertinent to the investigation or if you don't want to deal with them directly just yet you (or the persons whose names were on the CF 742 personal emergency notification form) can try calling the orderly room of the regiment your friend belonged to. Tell the clerk who answers that you wish to speak with the Captain Adjutant, who will be the most competent person there and best able to deal with things. Tell them what you know and he/she take things from there.
posted by furtive at 5:15 PM on January 8, 2008


Best answer: Oh, and according to CFAO 24-6 the military investigation will include the following information:

Autopsy or Inquest.
Police Reports.
Findings of any summary investigations.
Whether the person was on duty.
Blame.
Attributability (e.g. was the death attributable to military service).
Disease.
posted by furtive at 5:34 PM on January 8, 2008


I would start by googling the number the call came from or at least call it back and ask to speak to the commanding officer. Hopefully your pal is just trying to live out his fantasy.
posted by bkeene12 at 5:50 PM on January 8, 2008


The way you phrase your question makes the situation sound more conspiratorial than it probably is. "No one knows where the body is." You mean they didn't tell the friends they called, "and we have his body here in the morgue." Well, why would they? That doesn't mean the military doesn't know where his body is. And you can be damn sure that they wouldn't notify anyone of his death unless they were quite sure he was dead. You may be able to fake your death by disappearing while at sea, like the guy in England, but you can't do it by holding your breath. Unless he paid someone to call his friends, and that wasn't really the military calling, then he's dead.
posted by Dasein at 6:15 PM on January 8, 2008


Just a thought: People who go deep undercover for the government and/or military(extremely covert missions) disappear/die for all intents and purposes, don't they? Some members of my family think that's what happened with my cousin (a U.S. Naval officer) in the early 1990s when we were told he had died under very suspicious circumstances. I like to think he's really alive and away on some secret mission with a new identity.
posted by amyms at 6:24 PM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Besides the very helpful official channels mentioned, Canadian military training deaths usually rank some press coverage. If the guy isn't showing up in google news, or in the army's news briefings, he probably isn't dead.
posted by cardboard at 6:27 PM on January 8, 2008


If you are certain that the phone calls are from the appropriate authorities in the military who would make such calls, then I'd say he's dead. If you are not certain, then call the office who supposedly called you to verify.
posted by winston at 7:21 PM on January 8, 2008


Response by poster: Furtive gave great advice, but in the end no one needed to use it. The guy turned up alive and well at home -- it was a nasty trick he played for reasons yet unknown.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 7:31 PM on January 8, 2008


Hmm. Glad he's alive, but much less glad than I would have been if he'd been honest and responsible. Hope his parents are okay.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:41 PM on January 8, 2008


Yeah, it takes more than a couple phone calls to pull that off. It takes serious dedication over the long term. I guess it's up to you to decide under the circumstances whether you're glad it turned out to be a hoax or not. I'd be... quite cross with my friend in that position.
posted by Naberius at 9:32 PM on January 8, 2008


I have a friend who was in the military, and I was told that sometimes it is hard to fish out details about soldiers death's because sometimes they fudge the details. He told me that if a lot (more than 4 or so) people die while in a training program or mission they might spread the deaths into two or three incidents and inform family members of one or two of them every couple of days so that the media doesn't catch wind of 50 or so soldiers dying at once.

This is all heresay.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 9:44 PM on January 8, 2008


Furtive gave great advice, but in the end no one needed to use it. The guy turned up alive and well at home -- it was a nasty trick he played for reasons yet unknown.

wtf? WTF!??
posted by Corduroy at 11:20 PM on January 8, 2008


that's not a funny trick at all. what a douche.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:42 AM on January 9, 2008


You need to punch that dude in the nuts.
posted by spec80 at 9:43 AM on January 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Any idiot who would do this has no business being in the military. His family should report his ass to the chain of command before he pulls some stunt like this in Afghanistan and gets someone killed.
posted by Dasein at 2:11 PM on January 9, 2008


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