Hospitals ought to be flexible on detaining dead people

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Hospitals ought to be flexible on detaining dead people
Hospitals ought to be flexible on detaining dead people

Africa-PressTanzania. GLOBALLY and in most communities, burying a person is the climax of celebrating the life of a loved one and it is every family’s wish to give their kin a befitting send-off.

In most cases many families would wish to bury their kin as soon as possible to ease the pain and start the healing process, because life must continue.

This school of thought is somehow natural; however, the commercial and inhuman keeping of a dead person in a mortuary over unpaid bills is extreme psychological torture to the family, relatives and friends and should be reviewed, no wonder it is addressed as blood-money.

Ask any child the importance of a hospital in a community and you would be told that it provides medical care to patients. It is equipped for the diagnosis of diseases, treatment and a mortuary to temporarily keep (not detain) dead people, before they are collected for burial.

In a normal case, it is not the dead person who will settle the debt. It is the relatives. Hospitals should reach a consent with relatives on how debts will be paid and release the body for burial and this is, where humanity starts.

Unfortunately enough, some hospitals rush to detain a dead person and stick to their gun that it’s only settling the medical and mortuary bill that will make them release the body, without being flexible of how the debt would be settled.

This is a serious matter that should be addressed with sanity and not fielding capitalist reasoning of money first. This raises the moral question of whether hospitals are justified to hold patients’ bodies until their bills are settled, and whether there is any value gained by keeping a corpse in cold storage for days on end.

An English judge once ruled that a creditor is not entitled to retain the body of his debtor as security. But does a hospital have a right to be paid for services it rendered to the patient before death? And does a family have a right to bury the body?

In an attempt to resolve this dilemma, several judges have ruled that it is wrong for a hospital to detain a corpse over medical bills since there are other avenues through which they can pursue their dues, and again there is no law that provides that failure to settle a bill will result in a patient’s detention.

Although hospitals have a right to demand payment for services, holding the patient is not one of the avenues they should pursue, because payment can be pursued through other debt-recovery mechanisms like filing a civil suit.

In the judges’ words, detaining a patient or body is a classic example of a scenario where two wrongs don’t make a right.

If losing a loved one is not painful enough, then trying to cope with the loss while knowing that the person you cherished is lying lifeless in a cold room because you are unable to collect the body is a traumatising experience.

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