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Friday 26 May 2017

Bereaved hit for €200 by hospital embalming ban

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

BEREAVED families face the prospect of an increase of up to €200 in funeral prices after a decision to no longer allow embalming of the dead in HSE-run hospitals.

Permission for undertakers to carry out embalming in some hospital mortuaries was customary in several HSE-run community hospitals.

However, this is ending due to a number of factors, including concerns about insurance, lack of supervision of embalmers and questions over consent to the procedure from relatives.

It means part-time funeral directors who rely on the hospital service will have to secure other facilities, which could add €100 to €200 to the funeral bill.

John Hayes, HSE area manager in Donegal, said a decision to stop facilitating the embalming service in hospitals had been taken in light of the concerns.

"It is the responsibility of the commercial entity to make their own arrangements in the provision of services under contract with the deceased member's family," he said in a parliamentary reply to Deputy Charlie McConalogue (FF).

Gus Nichols, spokesman for the Association of Funeral Directors, said this would mostly affect part-time undertakers who make up the majority of the 600 funeral directors in the country.

Regulated

Mr Nichols said he accepted the HSE position that a basic checklist of criteria was not being met.

"In some areas, hospitals never allowed it, so local funeral directors have invested to provide the facility.

"It is not a problem for the HSE but for funeral directors -- one they have to adapt and solve," he said.

The association is calling for the funeral industry to be regulated.

Embalming of the dead is very common in Ireland because of the tradition of viewing an open casket.

The knock-on effect is that undertakers may have to travel outside the county in some cases to get a proper facility for embalming and this could cause delays for the bereaved.

It would also lead to an increase in costs of around €100 to €200, Mr Nichols estimated. The average cost of a funeral is now around €5,000 in Dublin and funeral directors' fees would make up around €3,400 of that. The most expensive county for funerals is Cork.

The HSE said last night it set out the standards and requirements that must be in place if embalming was being carried out.

"It is the decision for each service manager to decide if these conditions can be adhered to or not within their area of responsibility," said a spokeswoman.

The Forum on End of Life, chaired by Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, last year called for regulation of the funeral industry saying nearly 30,000 people die in Ireland annually.

"We owe them and their relatives and friends a guarantee that funeral services are professionally regulated and at a fair price," she added.

Irish Independent

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