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Published:Sunday | June 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Health ministry and funeral directors considering rules to govern burial industry

Regulations are now being drafted to bring order to the funeral sector in the wake of a recent surge in the number of persons going into the business and concerns about unethical practices by some in the industry.

Health ministry sources say the matter is receiving urgent attention as members of the Funeral Directors Association have agreed on the need for proper regulations.

"With the system being as loose as it is now, every puss and dog can come in and say they are a funeral director," said Melvin Honeyghan, president of the Funeral Directors Association.

"They don't have any office, some of them don't care, and they have no records to double check that a man was buried this year or was he buried last year," added Honeyghan.

According to Honeyghan, members of the association will be meeting with an attorney-at-law to discuss the way forward.

"We are going to be seeking regulations ... to rule that persons who want to be registered as a funeral director to get permission first from the Funeral Directors Association of Jamaica."

Despite accepting the need for further regulation, Honeyghan remains sceptical of claims the some funeral homes are muffing the cremation of bodies.

A recent Sunday Gleaner probe supported claims that Jamaicans who opt to cremate the remains of their loved ones could be left holding urns with ashes from wood, animals or anything except the body they wanted to have cremated.

But Honeyghan argued that he has seen nothing to substantiate this claim.

"Whatever is said to be happening, I cannot say 100 per cent. You can't hear allegations, you have to be sure before you can prove it ... there are a lot of allegations about illegal activities that have been happening in Kingston where remains are concerned, but for me to be sure I would have to have personal evidence to say this is happening here or it is happening there."

Honeyghan noted that procedure dictates that crematories present certificates to confirm the cremations.

"I know that once you burn with Sam Isaacs he gives you a certificate to say that they have burned the remains. I also have documents here to say that I cremated 10 bodies for St Paul's, five for St John's, and you can call all the different names," declared the veteran funeral director who operates Honeyghan's Funeral Service and Crematorium.

"For us to be sure we would need somebody to say, 'I have got some ash and I am in question of what really happens'. When that investigation is carried out, then I can say yes, in truth and in fact there is evidence to it. But without proper evidence it is hard to say."