• Sweden edition
 

Undertakers 'sickened' by hospital’s corpse storage

Published: 07 Mar 2012 17:40 GMT+01:00
Updated: 07 Mar 2012 17:40 GMT+01:00

A Swedish hospital has come under fire after it was reported that staff members were storing corpses “head-to-toe”, leaving the undertakers who made the discovery shocked and sickened.

”There are no excuses. What am I to tell the relatives? That they have to bury them as soon as possible because otherwise they may risk their loved ones having another deceased’s feet in their face,” said undertaker Marcus Eriksson to news agency TT.

The funeral directors made the discovery when they were picking up a deceased woman for burial. On the same bier was another corpse with its feet in the dead woman’s face.

In total, twenty bodies were kept in the same manner. One of the bodies had its feet in liquids that had leaked out of another’s mouth.

Undertakers Tomas Odén and Marcus Ericson went to the morgue at Stockholm’s Karolinska university hospital on Friday to pick up one of the deceased to prepare her for funeral.

“It was sickening. Another deceased’s feet were pressed up against her face,” said Odén to TT.

His colleague Ericson returned the day after on an administrative errand.

“Considering what had happened the day before we decided to go through all the fridges and we counted twenty that were laying head to toe," Ericson said.

A report has subsequently been made to the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen).

According to TT, the Stockholm County Council has closed several unmanned morgues across the county, which has resulted in a shortage of spaces.

But that this has resulted in corpses being placed head to toe at the Karolinska morgue is news to pathologist Göran Cederqvist, who told TT that this was not common practice at the hospital.

“It might have occurred in a few isolated instances, but only temporarily. We don’t keep bodies that way, we just don’t,” he told TT.

If there is a shortage of biers in the fridges they close down the mortuary and send the bodies to another hospital, according to Cederqvist.

There is currently no general shortage of morgue-space in Sweden, but in some places the situation looks worse than in others.

The reason for the shortage is that people are taking longer to organize funerals today than they did before, says Ulf Lernéus at the Swedish Funeral Directors’ Association (Sveriges begravningsbyråers förbund, SBF), a problem which is particularly pressing in Stockholm.

On May 1st, new regulations come into effect, shortening the time allowed between death and funeral from two months to one. Lernéus is hoping that this will take the pressure off the Swedish mortuaries.

According to TT, this is not the first time this kind of storage scandal has occurred in Stockholm. Lernéus is shocked that this may be happening again.

”It just cannot occur, it simply can’t,” he told TT.

TT/The Local/rm

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Your comments about this article

19:36 March 7, 2012 by Svensksmith
Are the corpses complaining?
19:57 March 7, 2012 by sergisr
I wonder why the hell do they store the corpses of their deceased relatives, instead of burying or cremating them quickly. I can't figure someone saying: "We go on vacation to Acapulco and, on returning, we'll have time enough to bury the grandpa".
20:22 March 7, 2012 by stevo1
How about funeral homes taking some of the fault.

Rising costs of performing a funeral is also another reason that corpses lay in wait at hospitals because many families cannot raise the money in sufficient time. If these funeral directors are so appalled by the situation, why don't they store some of the bodies in their own morgue?

And why would you inform an already grieving family of such an incident in the first place, Swedish funeral directors must be some of the most callous people in the industry!

In the end, the body is just a vessel for the soul, so stacking corpses five deep in refrigeration is still hygienic and prevents decay, it's not like these corpses have been left outside, on some ones door step in the elements.

Tomas Odén and Marcus Ericson you should be ashamed of yourselves making this issue public by media in the first place, it is clear you have no respect for common decency and you have done nothing for your own business - I will surely avoid your business if the need arises.

It's very easy to criticize others, without taking some responsibility for yourselves.
21:22 March 7, 2012 by BillyB
"What am I to tell the relatives?"

well how about telling them nothing? How will telling them help anyone???

Something like this should be sorted out quietly, pointless upsetting families more.
21:32 March 7, 2012 by hjoian
What is it with these people?Some Russian morgues are piled up body on body, leaks and all,if you need a body at the bottom you may have to shift another 10 bodies. People in this trade need to realise they will see this sort of thing. Is this country so sanitized that even a funeral worker would complain about such a thing? Firstly your talking about a non complaining corpse, secondly its your job to take and process a body for burial,that may mean unpleasantness. Realise things could be much worse, or change your job. Idiot.
10:00 March 8, 2012 by SimonDMontfort
...seems reasonable to 'flag' the issue - at the same time, I agree its reasonable to expect to see some upsetting things in dealing with the dead.

How would the funeral directors concerned, feel about dealing with a corpse which has been mutilated/disfigured by disease or injury?
11:57 March 8, 2012 by zooeden
People wait so fripping long here to bury a dead one, its not even funny so Im happy the feet of another is in some old fart leaking juice and molding the face!!!

Maybe it will give perspective that people have to act fast, pay the respects and bury/cremate after dunno 3 days and not wait untill skateverket pays the taxes back!!! Im so insentitive...
13:03 March 8, 2012 by anonymous4
There are sanitary standards that must be followed by the hospital morgues and undertakers. If it takes government intervention and passage of laws to regulate the funeral industry, then so be it! What do you want next? Mass graves for convenience?
18:40 March 8, 2012 by Youdee
Other countries can bury their dead within 3 days. Why can't high-tech, super-computerized Sweden? All the churches, chapels, funeral homes in Stockholm can't be booked 24/7. And if the ministers are booked, then perhaps priests from the countryside might want to pick up some extra cash...
13:32 March 9, 2012 by Borilla
Just another anachronism. The Swedish funeral industry is trying its best to make funerals here as big and as costly a business as in the US. The Aleuts have the right idea. Put them on an ice floe and push them out to sea. The only question here should be whether this "problem" constitutes a threat to public health or not. Require burial within one week (3 days?). But then the funeral people wouldn't have time to squeeze the families for more money would they? Cremate them and move on. You seldom hear the dead complain.
17:58 March 9, 2012 by skylarkpilot
"It can't happen, it just can't"..........Oh that's all right then.

Oh no what's that ... it did happen ?

The official said it can't and someone is questioning that ?

Surprised they got any official to say anything. Hardest thing in Sweden is to get someone in an official capacity to say anything !

But rest assured, absolutely nothing will happen as a result of this......Phew
18:49 March 9, 2012 by eovti
What does it matter how my body is treated after I'm dead?

I won't care, because i'll be, well, dead.

So having another stiff's toe in my mouth or whatever won't bother me, because "I" won't be there.
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