By Peter Stevenson
DEPUTIES are not expected to vote on a bill to permit cremation before the end of the year although they are expected to pass legislation on other issues regarding funeral homes and cemeteries of various religious groups.
“The House Interior Committee discussed bills regarding the cemeteries of religious groups – Armenians, Latins, Maronites and others – funeral homes and cremations,” chairman Yiannos Lamaris said.
He explained that although the discussion regarding the bill on funeral homes has been completed, it is connected to the bill on cremations which requires more debate, so the committee is looking into a way to separate the two pieces of legislation.
“We are looking into separating the two bills before the House Plenum discuss on the budget takes place,” Lamaris said.
The committee chairman added that there is no legislation regarding the way funeral homes operate and the proposed new law would regulate town planning permission, where they can be located and regulations relating to the proper handling or disposal of a dead body.
“We were informed that in some cases when bodies were transported abroad, in order to cut costs, organs were removed to reduce the weight so it was decided to ban the removal of any organs without just cause,” he said.
Lamaris added that funeral home employees will be required to have expert knowledge on the subject just as in other countries where there are special schools for the training of funeral home operators, something which is also included in the proposed bill.
Regarding the cemeteries of other religious groups, Lamaris said that the bill will be put to a vote at the plenary session and is the same as the bill which covers the Greek orthodox community on the island.
“There are difficulties regarding cremation, mainly emotional ones, as traditionally dead bodies are buried. The committee is trying to ensure that cremation is a conscious decision either by the deceased before they die or by their relatives,” he said.
Lamaris said that the committee is also looking into the aspect of exhuming a dead body as part of an investigation. For cremation to take place, a certain process would need to be completed to ensure that the remains are not disposed of prior to the conclusion of any investigation.
He pointed out that in Britain, where 75 per cent of people choose cremation, these issues have been resolved and safeguards are in place to prevent any such incidents.
“It is unlikely that the discussion regarding cremation will be completed before the end of the year,” he said.
The chairman added that cremation could be undertaken by the private sector as the expense of creating a state-operated crematorium would be far too costly for the tax payer.