The government is working to regulate the funeral industry amid growing complaints about that trade, according to Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands, who advised on Monday that things “can go pretty bad pretty quickly” depending on which mortuary service people engage to deal with their deceased loved ones.
“In some instances, it can get pretty scary,” Sands said as he took questions from reporters outside the House of Assembly.
“There are a number of individuals who have been trained [and] certified as morticians, but we do not have any legislative or regulatory framework to guide the practice of mortuary science in The Bahamas.
“And so, it is the ethics of the individual proprietors that determine the outcome. So, this can go pretty bad pretty quickly depending on who you happen to engage to take care of your loved one.”
Calls for the government to regulate the industry swelled following the release of a video that showed a swarm of flies gathered at the door of a funeral home. However, one of the owners of that home refuted claims of unsanitary conditions and categorized the video as an act of revenge.
Sands said the government will bring legislation to address the funeral industry later this year.
“We have gotten from the funeral association draft legislation, which we are minded to consider,” he said.
“In the immediate term, we are going to be adding them to the [Bahamas] Health Professions Council so that there are qualifications, certifications, and so that people would have to be licensed in order to offer themselves as morticians.
“This is an area where the majority of the persons that operate in this sector do an admirable job, but there are some instances where it is less than adequate, less than appropriate and the public [has] complained.”
When asked whether Ministry of Health officials encountered issues when investigating complaints, Dr. Sands acknowledged that they did.
“We have had some challenging issues,” Sands said.
“Bear in mind, mortuary science, it requires training if you are going to avoid some of the calamities that could happen. There could be transfer of infectious disease, inappropriate management of remains, illnesses, in terms of contamination of the environment and so on and so forth.
“Those people that are properly trained and have a proper business approach understand these things. But if any person can get involved in this business without a certification at all, ostensibly because they provide a cheaper service, imagine the risk to the community, imagine the risk to the public, not to mention the fact that people’s loved ones can be desecrated.”