In the Aladár Petz Teaching Hospital in Győr, everybody had to pay HUF 5,500 (EUR 13.6) if they wanted to see the dead body of their loved ones. After the Hungarian media reported the issue, many were shocked and called the strange practise unethical. In August, the National Healthcare Service Center (Országos Kórházi Főigazgatóság) banned that practise. But index.hu looked into the case to answer the questions: who the body of the deceased belongs to in Hungary and whose obligation is to organise the burial. Below you may read their findings.
A questionable hospital practise
Interestingly, the Hungarian laws do not forbid making people pay if they want to see the body of their deceased loved ones. However, such practises raise serious ethical problems, theologist and ethics teacher Zoltán Richárd Németh told index.hu.
His standpoint correlates with the one of the National Healthcare Service Center, which finally banned it for the Hungarian hospitals. However, they will not start an ethical investigation into the issue like the Hungarian Medical Chamber. Mr Nemes said the corpse of the dead belongs to the relatives in charge of the funeral. Though it sounds profane, nobody can ask for money from us to see our remains.
Of course, we pay for other services like the cooling or processing of the deceased. However, the relatives must be able to get to the body to, for example, retrieve a valuable ring without becoming a ghoul. Regardless of the value of such assets, they become the property of the relatives only after the probate proceeding. Nemes said that it raised severe moral scruples if an institution or an individual asked for money to allow relatives to see their deceased loved ones.
Who does the body of the deceased belong?
A mortician said that in the case of open-casket funerals, relatives were not required to pay to see the deceased. However, we must pay for that in the crematoriums. The hospital in Győr did not share information on how high their income was thanks to their practise and whether they would reimburse the collected sums.
A former member of the Constitutional Court of Hungary, Barnabás Lenkovics, said that the human body was not considered ‘property’ in a modern legal system. Therefore, it is not the asset of the mortician, the crematorium, the relatives or the hospital. Then who has to organise its burial? If not defined in the testament or other agreements, the relatives are responsible for the order of legal inheritance.
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