A funeral board in Nova Scotia has decided to tighten rules after a woman was accidentally cremated during a tragic mixup of bodies.
The Nova Scotia Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors also decided to revoke the licence of funeral director David Farmer, who was was responsible for mistakenly cremating the body of 65-year-old Sandra Bennett.
To make matters worse, the body of 96-year-old Myrtle Wilson was embalmed and presented as Bennett during a family visitation last Dec. 27, which shocked the family.
Bennett’s sister, Carolyn Dominey, said the family planned to have an open casket service, but when they looked inside, they saw the body of another woman dressed in Bennett’s clothing.
“I was shocked,” Dominey told reporter Aly Thomson of The Canadian Press. “It’s like they degraded my sister’s body against her wishes.”
Dominey and her daughter, JoAnne, said staff at the Serenity Funeral Home in Berwick, N.S., insisted the woman in the casket was Bennett. When they realized it wasn’t, the family says they were presented with another body in the casket purchased by Bennett’s husband, Gary. It wasn’t Bennett.
The family was then told that Bennett had been mistakenly cremated.
Geoff MacLellan, the Nova Scotia cabinet minister responsible for issuing licences to funeral homes, earlier called the funeral home’s mistake unacceptable.
“Losing somebody and a death in the family is the hardest thing you’ll go through. It takes every bit of your strength mentally, emotionally and physically just to deal with the process,” he told The Canadian Press.
“To have this happen and impact these families in this way is tragic, it’s devastating, and quite frankly from the government’s perspective, it’s unacceptable.”
MacLellan ordered an investigation, which concluded earlier this month that the funeral director made the mistake so his licence was revoked.
The funeral board also asked the province to require all funeral home staff to identify a body before it’s transported, and called for fines similar to other jurisdictions (including British Columbia) and recommended more open hearings for professional misconduct.
MacLellan responded to the report by saying he hopes to bring in legislative changes soon.
“We’re going to get working immediately on the legislative piece and any other regulatory aspects so we’ve fully implemented what they (the board) have asked us to do,” he said.
In B.C., there are laws protecting consumers when purchasing funeral services. Those consumer rights are available online.
One of the laws protecting consumers is that funeral homes must present a price list to customers for funeral services
Consumer Protection BC also investigates complaints against funeral service providers and takes enforcement action when service providers are not in compliance.