Wrong coffin with a twist

Charles Cowling

Here’s an extraordinary thing.

A funeral director brings the wrong coffin to the crematorium. The crematorium staff spot that it’s the wrong coffin on arrival, and inform the funeral director. 

So far, so banal.

What happens next? The service goes ahead with the wrong coffin. At the conclusion thereof the coffin is not burnt but, presumably, taken home by the funeral director.

So she/he’s now got two dead people, one of whom ought to be ashes. What did she/he do next?

The Belfast Telegraph does not tell us here. The crematorium was Loughborough (Dignity plc) and the undertaker has yet to be named. 

 

 

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JehdeiahKathryn EdwardsMr XXrosieRICHARD NEWMAN Recent comment authors

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Jehdeiah
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Jehdeiah

No, fraid not, I stumbled across this on one of those weird and wonderful treasure hunt trips round ‘t’internet that seem to emanate so readily from the GFG blog. It’s a Dutch enterprise.

Kathryn Edwards
Guest
Kathryn Edwards

That’s a great-looking coffin design, Jehdeiah, even without the window. Thanks for the information.

Have you seen one ‘in the flesh’?

Jehdeiah
Guest
Jehdeiah

Problem solved with one of these ? You could just have a quick reassurance check?

Mr XX
Guest
Mr XX

Good point. Last week, my small business had ten identical coffins on the premises. Not all of them had yet been fitted with name-plates. I do trust my procedures, but to be fair can also see how mistakes are made at the Co-op and Dignity. It is but one small reason why I would not trust the care of my loved-ones to either organisation.

rosie
Guest

Much as Rosie might say that, I would like to point out that it was actually me, Ru Callender, typing from the Dr Strangelove headquarters of The Natural Death Centre, deep underground in every sense..

rosie
Guest

It’s inevitable with all these coffins being the same, a drawback of what are essentially indentikit funerals.

Mr XX
Guest
Mr XX

Jehdeiah – you made me laugh out loud. Thank you. Earrings indeed. It’s happened to us all. Charles, as ever, you are right on all counts. Honesty and white lies, we are all guilty as charged.

RICHARD NEWMAN
Guest
RICHARD NEWMAN

Gentlemen!

Do keep your Dignity!

With Ja’s assistance, Mr Steve Jobs and The Sultan of Oman we will all be enjoying a new but hard working future come Monday!

Jehdeiah
Guest
Jehdeiah

No not pompous, defender of the good funeral!
I agree, the mess the lie creates far outweighs the brief solace it may appear to afford the family. It’s the knee jerk reaction of a terrified FD who is hoping against all hope that he/ she can cover up their own incompetence . They are too often bears of little brain….otherwise they woud have checked. But it did make me think does anybody really know who is in the box??

Charles Cowling
Guest

Jehdeiah, the white lie is an absolutely essential coin in anyone’s social currency and I guess I tell upward of a dozen every day. Probably double that. My fear is that in a wrong-body scenario it becomes, for all the good intentions behind it, a cruel trick. I hope this doesn’t sound insufferably pompous.

Jehdeiah
Guest
Jehdeiah

That dear Charles, is another debate entirely: is all deception malevolent? I cannot tell a lie I’m afraid, if I saw the wrong name on the coffin I wouldn’t go ahead… I think…Probably.. Don’t make me decide! Our council crems vary in their checking in procedures, from’ clipboard, moving the flowers and much ticking’, to ‘am I bovvered?’ In my world there would never be a mistake so the decision would never arise. Ahem. Mr XX I’m all in favour of many body bags and lots of Crem film too, had one such myself….In a wicker coffin too….. It was… Read more »

Charles Cowling
Guest

Am I right in thinking that you come down on the side of benevolent deception, Jedeiah, but against incompetence? I don’t know that any sort of deception, however well meant, is ever permissible. It’s irrational to bring an insensate corpse to a funeral, but people feel they need to do it because presumably they feel that it in some way embodies the person they’ve come to say thanks and goodbye to, and that it is, therefore, the beneficiary of the proceedings. The corpse is the focus. The wrong corpse, or no corpse, renders the proceedings null, void and meaningless. Which… Read more »

Jehdeiah
Guest
Jehdeiah

Ah Mr XX it’s not just about the cremation though, is it? I see the dilemma for the FD. Spare his embarrassment, er I mean spare the family the distress caused by him making such a f***k up. This kind of subterfuge can only work if everyone keeps shtum and patently they cant! This has caused much debate in the Meronothite household. What IS the right thing? Or what is the LEAST wrong thing? Mr M feels the debate is does the body NEED to be there, who is the funeral for? He is in favour of sparing the family… Read more »

Mr XX
Guest
Mr XX

Yes Kathryn. I agree the ‘slippery slope’ is certainly the enemy of good practice.

I do often wonder if some people appreciate the distressing condition that some of the people in our care can be in? Dealing with these matters is sometimes a part of our job – a part that demands a lot of sensitivity and careful thought. And often of course, some carefully chosen words.

Kathryn Edwards
Guest
Kathryn Edwards

Mr XX pitches us an interesting conundrum.

To respond to his question whether his tentative idea would be good practice requires more information, I’d say, than he has given us. One would need to know more about the circumstances of the death and the relationships between the bereaved and the dead person.

And one would have to review the purposes – beyond mere disposal – of that particular funeral.

‘Sparing the family distress’ has the danger of being a slippery slope towards . . . . ?

Mr XX
Guest
Mr XX

Gentlemen – I believe avoiding such an appalling failure in the first place is the least any decent FD would do. But, yes, having made such a basic error, I think my suggestion is a reasonable one. The correct body would be cremated, the correct ashes would be returned. All of this could occur within a few minutes of the committal if the real coffin had been sent as the service proceeded. I once had a very decomposed body. The stench was very noticeable from the coffin, despite our efforts to seal the deceased inside it. To protect the family,… Read more »

Simon irons
Guest
Simon irons

Mr xx
I can’t believe you would condone a cover up !
Disgrace !

Mr XX
Guest
Mr XX

I think the crematorium would not normally check the coffin details until after the committal? By then, it would be too late to refuse the coffin. If such an error was made – and we know who usually makes these kind of ba115 ups – the crematorium could spare everyone’s feelings, by allowing the FD to remove the coffin, substituting the correct one. I know this is wrong, and am not aware of it ever happening, but my solution would spare the family distress. I might point out my own business has sensible procedures that we follow to prevent such… Read more »

RICHARD NEWMAN
Guest
RICHARD NEWMAN

First Twitter thingy for me. Broadcast the kick off of ‘Crem Wars’ with ref to GFG site.

Twitter name is Richard of Kingsnympton although it gets cut off at the n. Chose Lady Gaga, Paul Schofield, The Rolling Stones, Simon Cowell(to annoy him), Ozzie Osborne(Big Birmingham/Sutton Colfield character), Rev Run (whoever he is), Counting Crows and an attractive chateusse who I’m keeping a secret!

Kingfisher
Guest
Kingfisher
Guest

Jonathan, yes, it goes without saying that the crematorium ought not have accepted the coffin in the first place. One would hope that with hindsight this is what everyone wishes had happened. But with hindsight the funeral director ought to have admitted the mistake and not continued with the funeral (at least, not with the wrong coffin in place). But hindsight… Yes, crematoria are allowed to hold coffins for up to 72 hours I believe. But there is the assumption that the coffin which was actually placed on the catafalque was destined for the same crematorium (or indeed, destined for… Read more »

RICHARD NEWMAN
Guest
RICHARD NEWMAN

I would very much like to assist in solving this conundrum but one really needs to ask those within. Now, I have a Dignity service contract which has proven to be a worthless piece of paper with absolutely no enforcement power in law. Anyone with one of these contracts can take heart that the following sections 5.1,5.2 and 5.3 have no legal weight what so ever: 5.1 – The Contractor shall keep secret and shall not at any time (whether during the continuance or after the termination of this agreement for whatever reason) use for the Contractors own or anthers… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

What ought to have happened, presumably, is that the crematorium should have refused the coffin its place on the catafalque and the funeral been postponed, or what’s the procedure of checking the nameplate supposed to be for? But given that it went through, against the rules, it ought to have been kept at the crematorium until its due date for cremation and hauled back out onto the catafalque for its second funeral, as meanwhile the right coffin should have been brought for cremation. Assuming, obviously, that one is comfortable with deceiving the family that this was their dead person and… Read more »

sweetpea
Guest
sweetpea

Richard, do you mean chippy as in frying, or chippy as in woodworker? If the former, I’d love to see their marketing blurb….

RICHARD NEWMAN
Guest
RICHARD NEWMAN

I feel I have a duty to add my two penny worth though for me at present ‘silence is Golden’ where anything to do with the inner workings of the entire Dignity crematoria estate is concerned. However I will lighten the mood with a little narrative about a coffin that arrived with one of what I call part time one man concerns that doubles as a chippy. I immediately spotted that the name on the plate was the sister of the deceased, one of only 3 mourners. The poor guy and his two bearers went into complete panic, covering the… Read more »

Simon irons
Guest
Simon irons

The independent FD is named in the article and it is clear that th family has been informed.

“A spokesman for Loughborough and District Funeral Service, which was responsible for taking the wrong coffin to the crematorium, said: “Our colleagues’ first concern is with the families of the bereaved.”

“We have already spoken to the families involved and offered our sincerest apologies. We will do all we can to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion for everyone affected.”

Kingfisher
Guest

I hope your presumption is wrong Charles. The FBCA Code of Cremation Practice states that “When the coffin is in place on the catafalque … [the funeral director’s] responsibility towards it ceases, and that of the Cremation Authority begins.” Furthermore “A body shall not be removed from the Crematorium after the Service of Committal”. (Before anyone says it, the capitals are from the code, not mine!)

On the surface this would perhaps appear to be a half story? But who knows what will transpire?

Kathryn Edwards
Guest
Kathryn Edwards

This news item raises an interesting question about who is in charge. The inappropriately cosy relationships I have observed between some crems and fds could all too readily lead to dishonourable collusions.

It will be fascinating to know what ‘solution’ is worked out with the bereaved and then deceived family.

And why is the story being reported from Belfast?