Do the Deceased Have Legal Rights? This Funeral Planner Didn’t Think So

A Co-op Funeralcare branch in the UK has been accused of leaving bodies to rot in the heat, absent of cold storage.

With grieving loved ones confident their deceased’s body is being taken care of, this Co-op Funeralcare branch in Windsor, UK, allegedly left corpses to decompose during the summer heatwave, in the back of the building.

An ex-employee and whistleblower, Ellen Brown, told the Daily Mail the branch’s behaviour is a “blatant disrespect of the deceased.” She reportedly stated that the branch had a backlog of funerals and couldn’t cope with a lack of staff. This in turn resulted in bodies being delayed for longer, and for the rotting to kick in, as they lay in the back of the branch at temperatures of up to 25C (77F).

In one instance, she described a corpse as having maggots, and in another, a coffin leaking bodily fluids. In another case, Miss Brown said a family was unable to “kiss goodbye” to their dead relative, given the now rotted conditions of the body. The store has allegedly admitted to storing one body in the back of the Windsor branch for as much as 20 days in July, which was a peak month for temperatures in 2017.

The branch unfortunately did not have cold storage. Miss Brown said: “They had nowhere to put the bodies in Slough as the storage was full, so they would bring them to Windsor long before the funeral,” according to the Daily Mail.

She continues: “Really this should only have been done for viewings or just one day before the funeral. Yet we had bodies in our holding area for weeks. The room would sometimes get as hot as 25C (77F), kept in those conditions it is impossible to preserve the body. Because of that some families were unable to view their relatives.”

There aren’t any strict laws on allowing a body to rot unfortunately. According to the Good Funeral Guide, in the UK It is unlawful to:

  • Detain a body (against, say, the payment of a debt).
  • Refuse to deliver a body to the executors for burial
  • Conspire to prevent a lawful and decent burial
  • Dispose of a body to prevent an inquest
  • Sell a body for dissection
  • Expose a body in a public place if to do so would shock public decency

But there’s no mention of storage. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says corpses being maintained for 48 hours or more are advised to be stored at 5C (41F) or less. For some however, ‘closure’ with their deceased family has been taken away from them.

What’s your take on this? Let us know in the comments below.

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