Death Makes The News

As you might have seen, what happens to the dead has been quite a hot topic in the news this week. I want to start by saying I am nowhere near an authority on what is being reported or what is being said in return. I’ve seen or read what I have access to, and I completely admit that I have not worked in this job for long enough to know or understand everything.

As far as I do understand, the issues that have been highlighted in some mortuaries in the news reports do exist but have been utterly exaggerated and amplified by the media. I can only discuss what I do know and understand; that the regulations have recently changed dramatically so any notable increase in breaches by institutions appears to be directly relatable to the fact they have become stricter.

In regards to the concerns around institutions releasing the incorrect person to the funeral directors I can only comment from what I know. Our own mortuary, and those I have visited, all have a full ID check in place where at least three different points of information have to match. In other words, we have the name, address, date of birth, date of death and either hospital or coroner’s reference number for each person. Those coming into collect them have to present us with this information and it is cross matched against the information on their wristband. If there are any problems at all with data on wristbands, e.g. mismatching bands, no bands present, then someone who knew the person alive must come and identify them. In the cases of hospital patients this will usually be a nurse who knew them on the ward. Coroner’s (deaths from the community) cases often have a formal identification by a relative.

I am confident from what I have seen there is no justification for the media scandal-type reporting that occurs in regards to mortuaries. One thing the media loves to do is to strike fear into everyone at the drop of a hat and I’m afraid I honestly believe this is the case. There are a lot of people defending and speaking out against the recent reports so please keep an eye out for them.

You may have also noticed that a company called Beyond have been placing advertisements on the tube to some people’s distaste. The aim of these, I believe, is two fold, to make people think about planning their own funerals or cremations, and alongside this to highlight that they don’t have to cost the earth to fund. Two causes I am very much in favour of, I think longtime readers will know I strongly feel that everyone should think a bit more about death, and also the cost of funerals is only becoming (unnecessarily) more and more expensive.

An example of one of the adverts on the tube- what’s so horrific about that?

I don’t feel these adverts should have been banned, because I can’t see how they are any more offensive than IVF adverts to women who can’t conceive or plastic surgery adverts in general. Not everyone will have children or surgically change the way they look, but everyone will die. However, by banning these posters they have become bigger than simply being seen by bored commuters. They are now newsworthy and being discussed on Twitter and other platforms, and even on television. Like in a lot of cases, by banning something you only allow more people to see it.

I’ll leave my thoughts on these here for now, but I’d be happy to discuss further with anyone who is interested or would like to ask me anything. Please get in touch if that’s the case!

MG x

Some links for you!

Telegraph Article NHS mortuaries so lax families are at ‘significant risk’ of burying the wrong bodies, watchdog finds  
Metro Article Do these ‘death adverts’ banned from London Underground go too far?
BBC ArticleFuneral ads banned by TfL over ‘widespread offence’
The Week UK – ‘Offensive’ funeral ads banned from London Underground

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