N.S. board revokes funeral director's licence after body mix-up
Michael Tutton, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Published Friday, March 9, 2018 12:34PM AST
Last Updated Friday, March 9, 2018 8:10PM AST
HALIFAX -- Rules on the handling of corpses will be tightened in Nova Scotia following a bizarre mix-up at a funeral home that resulted in an accidental cremation.
The Nova Scotia Board of Registration of Embalmers and Funeral Directors determined Thursday that the funeral director was responsible for the snafu and revoked his licence.
The board said David Farmer didn't check the identities of two women laid out in the same vehicle outside an Annapolis Valley crematorium.
As a result, 65-year-old Sandra Bennett was cremated, while 96-year-old Myrtle Wilson was embalmed and presented as Bennett at a family visitation on Dec. 27.
The report found the owner of the Serenity Funeral Home in Berwick, N.S., Anthony Facey, was not at fault because he had adequate identification procedures in place.
However, the report calls for legislative changes "to ensure that there is a system in place" at all of the province's funeral homes.
The report asks the province to require all funeral home staff to identify a body before its transported, calls for fines that align with other jurisdictions, and recommends more open hearings for professional misconduct.
Geoff MacLellan, the provincial minister responsible for Service Nova Scotia, said Friday he hopes to bring in legislative changes during this session.
"We're going to get working immediately on the legislative piece and any other regulatory aspects so we've fully implemented what they (the board) have asked us to do," he told reporters.
The confusion over the two bodies began during a stormy winter night on Dec. 20.
According to the report, two staff members from the funeral home picked up Wilson's body from a Digby nursing home after midnight, and another team picked up Bennett's body early the same morning from her home.
After they were taken to the firm's Port Williams facilities, one of the vehicles was needed for another pickup, and the two bodies were placed in the same vehicle.
Bennett was placed on the left, behind the driver's seat, while Wilson was on the right. An apprentice funeral director said there was a handwritten label for the bodies left on the stretchers.
The report states that Farmer believed that Wilson's body was the one on the left side of the van because the normal practice was to arrange the bodies in the order they had been received, with the earliest pickups placed on the left.
Farmer said in a written submission that he didn't check the written identification, nor did he telephone the two men who transported the bodies to confirm the identities.
He cremated Bennett's body, while Wilson's was laid out for embalming and placed in a casket, which was later presented to the Bennett family.
The home has been prohibited from carrying out cremations for a 30-day period beginning April 1.
"This was a tragic situation, one that no family should ever have to experience," MacLellan said.