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Dissing the dead - Families of deceased being put through ‘hell’ with new rules governing Government contracted funeral homes

Published:Sunday | June 19, 2016 | 12:00 AMRyon Jones

A number of families in Portland have joined the Funeral Directors Association of Jamaica in taking issue with the Ministry of National Security's decision that in all cases of sudden death the bodies should be taken to one of the government-contracted funeral homes.

The Sunday Gleaner had first reported on the issue on May 29, following directives issued in the Police Force Orders on February 11.

The orders instructed that in instances of sudden death, even where the persons had a known medical condition, the government-contracted funeral homes should collect the bodies and they should not be released until a doctor signs a medical certificate of cause of death.

Before that order, it was only in situations of suspicious deaths and sudden deaths, where the deceased had no known medical condition, that a contracted funeral home had to be called to collect the body.


Unnecessary amendment


Last week, some families in Portland, who have been affected by the amendment, labelled it unnecessary and a great source of inconvenience.

According to Linneth Anderson, her family was put through 'hell' following the death of her 97-year-old father on June 7.

"My mother died last year January. She, like my father, was old and all I did was call the police and then I called the funeral home. They came and they looked at her and then the funeral home took the body," said Anderson.

"It was absolutely different when my father died; they (police) were grilling me as if I killed him."

Anderson said her father died at around 5:30 a.m., but despite her funeral home of choice being on hand soon after the death was declared, the police would not allow the body to be removed until in the evening, when it was taken to a the government-contracted funeral home.

"The police said they had to get the death certificate, so I called the doctor who had seen him a week before he died, and he went in early and signed it up and my niece went for it," said Anderson.

"And even after that they still said we couldn't get the body because it had to go to the government (contracted) funeral home, and if I don't collect it by a certain time I had to pay some money. Now, where a poor old pensioner like me going to get money to be giving government like that?

"This cannot continue to happen because you have a dead and already under stress, and then the government going to be putting you under more stress, and not only more stress but more financially."


Compounded problems


Anderson's problems were compounded by the fact that there are no government-contracted funeral homes in Portland, so the body was sent to Brown's Town in St Ann.

"My two nieces had to charter taxi to drive behind them to see if when they reached Port Antonio they would give our funeral home the body, and they said 'no'.

"My funeral home of choice had to have somebody come to Port Antonio and pick up my two nieces, as somebody had to go down to Brown's Town to identify the body. If my funeral home wasn't lenient I would have to pay an additional $25,000 for him to go for the body."

The Ministry of National Security has claimed that the new rule was implemented "out of an abundance of caution as the proper procedure has to be done, and this is by way of the medical doctor signing a medical certificate of cause of death".


Struggling to understand


But Ralph Falloon is struggling to understand why in the case of his 79-year-old brother, who died on April 25, it was necessary for his body to go to a government-contracted funeral home since he was seriously ill for a considerable period.

"If they suspected foul play or it was a sudden death of somebody who never used to go to the hospital, then the police would come into play and he would have to go to the government morgue to do post-mortem, but he was a sick person who was almost 80," said Falloon.

"He died on the way to the hospital, but he used to be a regular patient in the hospital, having got a series of strokes intermingled with epileptic seizures and everything like that."

Falloon said he called the funeral home of his choice only to be told that the body had to go to the government-contracted funeral home, because his brother did not die at the hospital.

"We had to find transportation to go to the police station for the police to take them to the hospital to come to look at the dead man," said Falloon.

Falloon added: "We had to then go to Port Maria to ask for release of the body before we could go to Brown's Town, which was over two hours drive away, for the body, when my funeral home of choice would have been just 10 minutes away."