Swedish town struggles to bury its dead

A controversy has erupted in Kristianstad in southern Sweden over responsibility for the handling of corpses, resulting in an overflow at the central hospital’s morgue.

The morgue at Kristianstad Central Hospital has space for 40 bodies, but on Thursday there were 55 corpses at the hospital and more on the way.

“Our two refrigerated rooms are full and we’re forced to lay the deceased head to foot and on the floor of the morgue. It feels awful and it’s not ethical,” said autopsy technician Morgan Arvidsson to the Kristianstadsbladet newspaper.

The situation has resulted in some relatives not being able to bid a final farewell to their loved ones because the bodies have been damaged after being left at room temperature for several days outside the morgue.

According to Swedish law, the county council is responsible for the handling of people who die in their homes, at the hospital, or in a public place, while the municipality is responsible for those who die in assisted living and other care facilities.

At the time of burial, however, responsibility for the remains of the deceased lies with the local church parish.

The problem in Kristianstad stems from the municipality and the church not living up to their their responsibilities when it comes to the handling of people’s remains, forcing the hospital to store all of the town’s corpses.

Officials from the hospital have called a meeting with representatives from the local parishes, the municipality, as well as several funeral homes to address the matter.

“I hope the situation will be markedly improved by tomorrow,” hospital spokesperson Margareta Svalner said on Thursday.

Local church dean Erland Stiber told the newspaper the church is doing all that it can. He attributes the problem to a high number of deaths, combined with the holidays, which has resulted in several families taking longer than usual to plan burials for their loved ones.

According to local funeral home director Tony Lindh, many parish morgues also aren’t up to standard, forcing the church to use the hospital morgue instead.