An inhumane farewell

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An inhumane farewell

The Covid-19 rules forcing the cremation of people killed by the virus before their funeral is being criticized for its cruelty and disregard for human dignity. Families deprived of the chance to accompany their loved ones at their deathbeds or exchange a last farewell cannot but live with guilt and lasting scars. None of the 6,166 dead from Covid-19 over the last two years would have been able to share their last moments with their relatives.

There is no scientific evidence that people can get infected with Covid-19 from exposure to the bodies of the dead. The practice merely followed Singapore, but Singapore abandoned it long ago. Most other countries permit families to share the last moments with the dying. Korean authorities also must do away with the rigid and uniform funeral procedure to help ease the pains for the bereaved families.

The funeral mandate was revised after the MERS outbreak. The mandate requires the state to provide support with speedy and systematic funerals with respect for the dead and wishes of the families. But the reality is entirely the opposite.

Families can receive financial assistance for funeral procedure only when the bodies are cremated. Most of the families never had the chance to see the face of the dying. There are many heartbreaking testimonies from families who had to let their parents die in isolation in residential hospitals following in-house outbreaks — and from parents who could not see their children who died in segregated hospitals.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) has been recommending cremation in fear of the virus spreading during the funeral process. But there have been no cases of infection from dead bodies. The World Health Organization also denied any suspicion about infections from dead bodies.

Health authorities must respect the opinions of experts and families to allow them to choose whether to accompany the dying in their last moment. The government must guarantee the constitutional rights of the people to share the final moment with their loved ones. It must not let administrative convenience interfere with our basic rights.
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