EU Directive to change ‘Irish way of death’?

One thing the Irish do well is in how they handle death. It’s something that cuts across religions and jurisdictions. A key part is the viewing of the body before burial. Well, the Kilkenny People reckons it could be a thing of the past if Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas gets his way. He wants to withdraw chemicals used by embalmers to preserve bodies under an environmental directive. According to the Irish Association of Funeral Directors about half of all bodies are embalmed after death.

  • <b>Stephen Copeland</b>

    Good.

    Embalming is grisly and unnecessary. It pollutes the ground and the ground-water for generations in order that we can have a 5 second peek at a dead body. Let them decay in peace.

  • Occasional Commentator

    Stephen, It’s not a five second peek. The coffin is often open for days in the house with close family members looking and even touching the corpse for hours altogether over the few days. Some neighbours and distant relative might just have a quick peek, but others will want more time. And the coffin might well be in a room with a minimum of about 20 other people constantly, so closing up the coffin would change everything considerably.

  • According to the Irish Association of Funeral Directors about half of all bodies are embalmed after death.

    It’s the half that gets embalmed before death that we should be worrying about.

  • crat

    Biocides are extremely hazardous but if no alternative is available the legislation can permit derogations on cultural grounds. Why don’t they lobby for an exemption instead of scaremongering? The funeral directors might also wish to address how their insurance premiums will be affected as they now knowingly expose staff to cancerous products and the possible reprecussions in the event of ill staff taking the matter to court. The Funeral directors may also wish to think about when is the appropriate time to challenge aspects of legislation that have been in the pipeline since 1998.

  • Rory

    “..withdraw chemicals used by embalmers”.

    I should think so too. It’s hard enough trying to stop the kids sniffing glue without these fellows playing around with the remains of our loved ones while zonked out of their brains. Why can’t they make do with porter and whiskey like the old fashioned undertakers?

  • Stephen Copeland

    Why can’t they make do with porter and whiskey like the old fashioned undertakers?

    Exactly.

    I heard that bodies nowadays do not decay as fast as before as a result of all of the artificial preservatives that we are eating in our food.

  • middle-class taig

    Christ! This is the kind of nonsense that gives the EU a bad name. Environmental directives are fine and dandy, but when they conflict fundamentally with a culture’s approach to dealing with death, they enter the realm of cultural homogenisation.

    Ireland should refuse to implement any directive which is ultimately passed.

  • Betty Boo

    If I would be cynical than I would say, let’s stick to our cultural approach with porter and whiskey.
    The use of chemicals is so far not known as part of any cultural rooted dealings.

  • middle-class taig

    BB

    Remind me not to come to a wake at your house, BB

  • Betty Boo

    I’m not expecting any time soon.
    What is wrong with a good whiskey?

  • BogExile

    A GREAT WEE DEATH IN FLORENCECOURT

    I went to see the Daddy the day
    Before the reaper took him away
    I bulled me shoes and went to visit
    I says, ‘fierce day!’ and he says, ‘Is it.’
    We sat the length of the afternoon
    Then away went the sun and up came the moon
    But at eight o’clock sharp
    When I’m full of Harp
    He says, ‘ballicks ta this!’
    And was gone.

  • smcgiff

    ‘It’s the half that gets embalmed before death that we should be worrying about.’

    LOL, Hugh,

    There is a need for embalming. It may take some time for relatives to travel to pay their last respects.

    It is a grisly process, but there’s noting nice about death.

  • George

    Stephen,
    that five second peek, as you call it, could be the most necessary and fulfilling five seconds of your life.

    You can’t put a value on saying goodbye to someone you love dearly.

  • Stephen Copeland

    George and smcgiff,

    I can only think that we’ve uncovered another small cultural difference between our various religions. Because of my background I tend to go exclusively to C of I funerals, and there the coffin is always closed. I have actually never had even a 5 second peek at a dead body (in a coffin), much less a day or two of waking.

  • mnob

    Well as the title and the paragraph say – its the Irish way of death. Apparently prods aren’t Irish.

    Whatabout we refer to cremation as the Ulster way of death …

  • smcgiff

    “I can only think that we’ve uncovered another small cultural difference between our various religions.”

    I never even considered there was another way of doing things. How parochial am I? I’m more of a Catholic than I realised. 🙂

  • Stephen Copeland

    smgiff,

    I never even considered there was another way of doing things.

    I’ll invite you to mine, so you can see how the other half die!

  • SlugFest

    I HIGHLY suggest everyone read Jessica Mitford’s essay “Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain” — it takes you through the embalming process in lyrical and stunningly chilling prose.

    I read it nearly 20 years ago in college and even after all of these years, it still sticks out in my mind as one of the most well-written and eye-opening pieces i’ve ever read.

  • smcgiff

    ‘I HIGHLY suggest everyone read Jessica Mitford’s essay’

    Thanks, but I quite enjoy keeping my breakfast down?

  • SlugFest

    smcgiff,

    would that breakfast be the ulster fry, and if so how in God’s name do you keep it down anyway???

  • smcgiff

    Actually, breakfast consists of 2 Cadbury snacks and a cup of instant coffee around 11:00. The breakfast of champions!!!

  • SlugFest

    smcgiff,

    finally … i’ve found my soulmate!

    well, the cadbury part … can’t stand instant coffee and the one thing i detest about Northhern Ireland and the ROI (just being PC is all) is that no one can make a decent cup of coffee!!!!!

  • smcgiff

    ‘finally … i’ve found my soulmate!’

    Yeah. You feel like a freak too? 🙂

  • SlugFest

    “Yeah. You feel like a freak too? :)”

    my mom says i’m ‘special’.

  • Hi Slugger, I love your blog and have mentioned this on my site today. I’m wondering how often embalming is done in England? I work for a Euro MP who is following this closely.

  • How come nobody ever says what stage this is at? Is this an issued directive or one under discussion? What directive is it?

    Standard issue crappy reporting.

  • From what I understand, it is the biocides directive.

  • crat

    Colman, if you are really interested….

    You’ll get the directive and info, here (it has been around since before 1998). The detail for the 4th phase involving embalming fluids is –

    4th phase

    Existing active substances within product types 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 17, 20, 22 and 23, will be evaluated during the 4th phase of the review programme.
    For any of these active substances, notification of which has been accepted, complete dossiers must be received by the competent authority of the Rapporteur Member State no earlier than 1 May 2008 and no later than 31 October 2008.

    Derogation can be applied for on cultural grounds, assuming an open casket wake is considered a cultural practice worthy of risking public and employee health. Aren’t you glad you asked?