Quick FactFiles

One of the things that I have noticed when it comes to the information being disseminated on funeral practices and the practicalities of death is that is isn’t always accurate and is sometimes being offered without well rounded working experience or knowledge of the topic.

It is important that the information given is non-biased and knowledgeable as this will be the only way to inform people of their choices; only then will people be able to select services and products that fully meet their needs and wishes.

There are no regulations covering the funeral industry.
Not only are there no regulations covering the funeral industry but no requirement for training or qualifications. This means anyone can set up a funeral business, in any type of building and practice as they wish – this includes all aspects of the caring for the deceased.

Are there specific qualifications for people who work within the funeral industry?
There are but they are not compulsory.
The British Institute of Embalmers provide the training and examination process for Embalming. The National Association of Funeral Directors provide training courses and the examination process for Funeral Directors and Funeral Arrangers/Administrators.
Not everyone working in the funeral industry has these qualifications.

There is no legal requirement to use a Funeral Director.
A funeral can be arranged by the family themselves if they wish, or a family friend – essentially anyone can arrange a funeral.

There is no legal requirement to use a coffin.
This is not exactly accurate and is often stated to encourage free thinking when it comes to funeral arrangements. There are no requirements to use a ‘traditional’ coffin is perhaps more accurate phrase as there are rules, laws and regulations that do have to be followed but they are not overly restrictive.

A body must be covered in public places as to not break public decency laws. What is chosen as a coffin or in place of a coffin is entirely up to the family but consideration has to be given to the type of funeral.

If a cremation is taking place there are certain requirements that a coffin or whatever is used in its place need to have to meet Health & Safety requirements for the Crematorium Operators and Environmental Emission Laws.

Coffins for Cremation need to have:

  • The full name of the deceased fixed to the outside of the coffin – this has to be firmly attached an visible for the crematorium operators, they cannot Cremate a person without this.
  • A flat unobstructed and rigid underside (such as ply) to enable the coffin to be placed into the Cremation chamber safely.
  • No Gloss paint, no PVC, no sealant, no plastics or heavy metals.
  • For open type coffins the deceased should be covered with a shroud of some description.
  • The coffin must be lined with an absorbent material sufficient enough to absorb any leakage from the body.

For a burial the coffin or whatever is being used in its place must be made of a perishable material and must have the full name of the person who is being buried, clearly displayed. A Cemetery will not carry out a burial without the identification of the deceased being visible.

Are all deceased embalmed?
To embalm a body the embalmer needs ‘informed consent’ from the deceased person’s family or whoever is taking responsibility for arranging the funeral.

A funeral director cannot include embalming as part of the package or make someone agree to embalming. It is absolutely possible to not have embalming as long as there is adequate care of the deceased.

There are some funeral directors who do state that if a family want to visit the person who has died in their chapels of rest then they must agree to embalming – if a funeral director has these terms and you personally do not want to have the person who has died embalmed, there are funeral directors who will accommodate visiting of the person who has died without embalming.

Is Embalming necessary?
While embalming is the ultimate choice of the family and it is absolutely possible to still visit the person without them being embalmed – embalming has benefits.

Embalming is carried out for 3 main reasons: Presentation, Sanitation and Preservation.

The benefits for embalming include:

  • removing and or reducing death pallor and any hypostasis (deep red / blue discolouration – most common on the hands and ears but can present anywhere depending on the position of the person when they died).
  • re-hydrating the body thus improving their appearance
  • reduces unpleasant odours associated with the natural processes of decomposition
  • slows down decomposition
  • Sanitizes the body

While embalming has these benefits it is possible to not have embalming carried out, and as long as there are adequate care facilities and the time between the date of death, the date of visiting and the date of the funeral are professionally managed.

Are the times when embalming has to be carried out?
Embalming is normally required when a deceased is expatriated abroad or repatriated back to the UK.

Are there times when a deceased can’t be embalmed?
If the person was known to have a notifiable infection when they died they may not be able to be embalmed. Depending on which infectious disease it is and also the condition of the deceased may mean that embalming cannot be carried out and certain preparation procedures or even handling of the deceased is managed to reduce risk to funeral staff and people visiting their premises.

Pacemakers and Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillators (ICD) have to be removed prior to a Cremation.
These devises are surgically fitted by Cardiology Surgeons in Hospital but when the person dies, the Hospital do not normally remove them. The ICD is however, deactivated by the hospital but not removed. These devices are normally then removed at the Funeral Directors premises.

If a person with a pacemaker or an ICD is being cremated then the devices have to be removed as they may explode inside a Cremation Chamber and cause significant damage to the Cremation equipment as well as being a safety risk for Crematorium Operators.

These devices when removed belong to the deceased and the family’s consent should be sought to safely dispose of them. They are disposed by sending them back to the Hospital, who in turn returns them to the manufacturer for destruction.

What are Doctors forms for Cremation?
In order for a cremation to take place the state has to be satisfied with the cause of death. ‘Doctors’ forms are only required when a person has died expectedly and the cause of death is known and a cremation is taking place. Therefore, as well as the Cremation Form that the relative or representative of the deceased completes, there are two forms required to be completed by two Doctors (called Cremation Form 5 and Cremation Form 6 – Funeral Directors sometimes refer to them as part 1 and part 2 of the cremation form)

When someone dies and the death was expected, means that the Doctors know the cause of death and therefore can complete the medical certificate which allows the death to be registered at the Registrar. This applies if the person died at home, in Hospital, in a Hospice or in a Nursing or Care Home – the requirement of Doctors Cremation Forms have no bearing on where the person died.

For completion of Cremation form 5 and Cremation Form 6 requires two separate Doctors. The first Doctor has to be the Doctor who last treated the deceased and the second has to be a Doctor who is not connected to the first, so cannot be related in any way, work in the same practice or department and one who has a been practising for a minimum time. Both forms have to be completed separately to each other.

Doctors Charge a Fee for filling the forms in, the amount is set by the British Medical Association. Currently the fees are £82 per Doctor so for both Cremation Forms needed it is £164. These prices haven’t really increased too much in the last 20 years – in 1998 the Doctors Fee’s were £62 each.

Cremation Forms are required by the Secretary of State, they are not required by or associated with the NHS, they are statutory documents and are legally binding for the Doctors.

Is there a cost for registering a Death?
Registering a Death is free of charge but there are charges applied for copies of the Death Certificate.

What is a Direct Cremation?
A Direct Cremation is the act of cremating a deceased without a funeral service. This means that there will be no service and there will not be any minister of religion or celebrant officiating, the will be no music and no mourners.

In real terms for families that choose this option, they may not know when and where the cremation is taking place and may not know where their loved one is being cared for between the time of death and the funeral, and some will not get the ashes returned.

The deceased in some cases will not be prepared or dressed before being placed in the coffin, while some funeral directors will wash and dress the deceased and repose them in the coffin but most instances where a Direct Cremation is to take place there is no visiting of the deceased allowed.

The deceased will be transported to the Crematorium in a Private Ambulance or some companies may use a Hearse, where they will go straight to the back of the crematorium to be cremated.