Morgue rejects body for being 'too fat'

Last updated 11:15 19/06/2014

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The owner of a West Australian funeral business says she was forced to keep the body of a 200-kilogram man in her car overnight with the air conditioner running after a hospital morgue refused to store it because it was "too fat".

Joanne Cummings, the co-owner of Pilbara Funeral Services in Port Hedland in the Pilbara region, said the Hedland Health Campus had refused to take the bodies of two large people in the past year after claiming it did not have the equipment to accept bodies of such size.

Cummings said the latest incident occurred on Wednesday last week, when she was forced to drive two hours home with a 200-kilogram body in her car before alternative arrangements could be made to store the body.

She told the Port Hedland newspaper the North West Telegraph that she left the air-conditioning in her vehicle running overnight and went through three tanks of petrol trying to keep the body cool. She also checked on the body every 30 minutes.

The following morning, Cummings and her business partner hired a sea container with a chiller in it to store the body, she told the ABC.

Cummings has lashed out at the Hedland Health Campus, and disputed its claims that the campus' equipment couldn't handle a body of such size.

"It's a load of crap ... I could probably put a baby elephant in one of those fridges and it'd fit through the door, and they're refusing entry for a human being," Ms Cummings told the North West Telegraph.

"My issue is if that was your father, mother, partner ... you wouldn't want them refused entry into the mortuary."

She said the same campus had refused to take the body of another 250-kilogram man last year.

 "[A staff member] walked out and looked at this gentleman in the back of the car and said: 'He's too fat, he can't go in the fridge'. You can't say things like that," Cummings told the newspaper.

"Imagine if this was your mother."

Ron Wynn, the regional director of the WA Country Health Service, released a statement saying the Hedland Health Campus equipment was only approved to store bodies up to 150 kilograms.

However he said the service was investigating installing equipment that would increase that limit to 300 kilograms.

"Staff will meet with the Pilbara Funeral Services to develop a formal agreement for receiving and storing deceased persons at Hedland Health Campus," he said.

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"It is imperative that at all times a deceased person is treated with the utmost care and respect and viewings are arranged so as not to cause distress and inconvenience to grieving families." 

- Fairfax Media

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