Funeral gaffes can be avoided

The writer asks how the gaffe happened because the family should have been allowed to view the remains of their departed loved one who had tested positive for Covid-19, as long as they were wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
The writer asks how the gaffe happened because the family should have been allowed to view the remains of their departed loved one who had tested positive for Covid-19, as long as they were wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
Image: Getty Images

Why was the Eastern Cape family, who buried a stranger, not allowed to view the corpse at the mortuary before the funeral?

We ask how this gaffe happened because this family should have been allowed to view the remains of their departed loved one who had tested positive for Covid-19, as long as they were wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).

Department of health guidelines for handling human remains during the pandemic state that "once in the hospital or private mortuary, it would be acceptable to open the body bag for the family viewing only (mortuary attendant to wear full PPE). Family to be provided with masks and gloves for the viewing and should not kiss the body."

However, pensioner Nomsa Noda buried the wrong person instead of her husband after her former employer, Uitenhage Provincial Hospital, did not allow her to view his body.

"They refused to allow me to view my husband's body at the hospital mortuary due to Covid-19 regulations.

"Now I have buried the wrong person," she told News24.

Noda found out about the mix-up after the funeral when an undertaker came to her house to tell her about this, and she had to arrange a second funeral for her husband a few days later.

She told the publication she did not even have the "strength" to inform her daughter and other mourners who had travelled long distances to attend the first burial and went ahead to hold the second ceremony with a few people who were available to attend.

It was not clear why Noda was blocked from seeing the body prior to removal, as that is not part of the guidelines for handling bodies of Covid-19 victims.

This is sad and shocking. We cannot have grieving families being subjected to double trauma. First they are dealing with the loss of a loved one and then the frustration and humiliation of having buried the wrong person.

Such mistakes can be avoided by simply allowing them to view the remains, to spare the bereaved the financial and emotional burden.

As we approach the peak of the virus locally, it is inevitable that more people will die.

We urge mortuaries and hospitals to ensure this kind of blunder does not happen again.

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