EDITORIAL- Respect for the dead

EDITORIAL- Respect for the dead

One of the most harrowing aspects of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic is the dehumanizing way that the living is forced to deal with the dead. Around the world, people have been deprived of the chance to say goodbye to COVID-stricken loved ones as the patients are wheeled into isolation facilities and intensive care units.

People are deprived of the chance for even one last look as their deceased loved ones, with the cadavers kept in sealed bags to prevent COVID-19 infection, are brought to the crematorium for final disposal. The high number of cadavers has led to a shortage of urns for the ashes. Increasingly, ashes are merely placed in sealed plastic pouches and turned over to relatives of the deceased.

On top of this tragedy is the growing problem of inadequate funeral and cremation facilities. Several hospital morgues and funeral homes are being overwhelmed by the number of corpses, which infectious disease protocols require to be cremated within 12 hours of death. There’s a waiting line at crematoriums, and there aren’t enough refrigeration facilities in morgues. Fearing infection, funeral parlors are also reportedly turning away the remains of COVID-19 cases. Funeral service is a business, and operators are also concerned about the capacity to pay of the families of some COVID fatalities.

There’s a real risk of aggravating the contagion if cadavers are not properly stored while waiting for cremation. The government may have to step in to provide refrigeration facilities for cadavers. In other countries, ice skating facilities have been converted into temporary storage areas for COVID-19 fatalities. The Philippines, however, does not have such facilities.

In the meantime, bodies are piling up in health facilities and funeral parlors. The nation is currently hard-pressed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But the living should also pay attention to giving the dead proper respect.