'Ghoulish' cremation certificate fee funds parties

02:19, Nov 15 2012
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Ash cash bash: money charged for cremation certificates is used to fund a range of social activities for young doctors at Taranaki Base Hospital.

The Taranaki District Health Board says the "ash cash" charged for cremation certificates is used to fund a range of social activities, including an end-of-year celebration for young doctors.

The Taranaki board said $6677.64 in cremation certificate fees were received over five years, averaging about $1300 a year.

The cremation certificates, filled out by doctors to verify a body is suitable for cremation and does not contain a potentially explosive pacemaker, take about 10 minutes to complete.

They are carried out during doctors' regular work hours and are a prescribed part of their job.

The chief medical adviser for the Taranaki board, Dr Greg Simmons, said it planned planned to stop charging for the service in line with other boards.

The Taranaki Daily News understands a social event for young doctors, the "Ash Cash Bash", will take place this Friday in New Plymouth.

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The Taranaki board charged $20.44 a certificate last financial year.

Under the Burial and Cremation Act 1964, before any body can be buried, cremated or otherwise disposed of, a doctor is required to certify the cause of death.

Labour health spokeswoman Maryan Street said collecting fees from the estates of the dead was "ghoulish".

"I don't see why this should entail a cost for the grieving families. I just thought it was part of [doctors'] normal duties.

"There's something ghoulish and entirely inappropriate for this to be made into a perk for junior doctors," she said.

Acting Health Minister Jo Goodhew said ash cash was a hangover from the past and the practice would be canned.

Taranaki Daily News