General Article Your legal rights and responsibilities

Topic Selected: Bereavement
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Who’s in charge?

There’s no law that says you have to have a funeral.

But there is a law that says you must dispose of the body of the person who has died ‘by burial, cremation or any other means’ (Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953).

The law views a dead body as a potential health hazard and it enables one or more people to take possession of a dead body for the sole purpose of disposing of it. Note that word ‘possession’. Possessing a dead body is not the same as owning it. No one owns a dead body. No one owns a living body, either. You do not own your own body; you are not allowed to offer your organs for sale.

Certain people have a prior right to possess a dead body so long as they undertake to dispose of it. If you have the right to take possession of a dead body then you have the right do so at once without having to produce any documentation.

 

What does this mean?

The pe

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