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Undertakers 'sickened' by hospital's corpse storage

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17:40 CET+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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