We've all heard about baby mix-ups in hospital – but most of us would never imagine the same thing happening to a corpse. However, fears that this – and other funeral fiascos – could happen in Ireland have prompted the Irish Association of Funeral Directors (IAFD) to examine how funeral homes across the country could be regulated.
"The funeral service is unregulated and it's an issue which we are very worried about," said Graham Gleasure, spokesman for the IAFD, which represents funeral homes. "When things are open like that, standards could slip. There are people who don't take it [the funeral home business] seriously."
Earlier this year, two funeral home staff were sacked in Britain after the wrong body was cremated when employees mixed up two corpses. The mistake meant that a grieving family who believed they were saying goodbye to a loved one were actually holding a ceremony for a stranger. Another family had to hold a funeral with an empty coffin because their relative had been cremated at the earlier service.
Gleasure said that an Irish funeral had yet to be hit by a major drama. "However, it would be our fear that something major could happen," he added.
Funerals don't come cheap. The price of a typical funeral varies between €4,000 and €6,000 – but the bill could be €10,000 or more if you're paying for a grave in a particular spot. Cremations are considered a cheaper alternative to a traditional burial, but even that could set you back more than €2,000.
"The IAFD wants a quality standard for the delivery of a funeral service," said Michael Crowley, secretary with the IAFD. "We're working on proposals on how to regulate funeral homes."
The consumer lobby group, the Consumers' Association of Ireland (CAI), called for the regulation of funeral homes as far back as 2010. "The need for regulation has not gone away," said Dermott Jewell, chief executive of the CAI.