The Right to a Funeral of Your Choice

November 21, 2007 at 12:50 am 4 comments

This is a sad story, but also an important one. Recently a woman who I knew died, and her death highlighted a basic right that this State denies to many of our citizens. Because this woman was living in an unmarried relationship, she and her partner were denied the type of funeral service that they had chosen together, according to their personal beliefs. >>>

In this case, the woman who died was in a stable long-term relationship with another woman. As well as having willed their possessions to each other, they had planned a humanist funeral service for whichever of them died first, and they had chosen a non-denominational graveyard in which both of them would be buried.

However, because they were not officially next-of-kin, the dead woman’s parents were given control of the body and the funeral arrangements, and they instead arranged a religious service, and a burial in a religious graveyard, against the wishes of their deceased daughter and her life partner.

Now I appreciate that the parents were also upset at their daughter’s death, and that they came from a different generation, and that they had their own religious preferences for how and where their daughter should be buried. But this was not – or at least, should not have been – their decision to make.

Much of the debate on the rights of gay and lesbian couples has focused on the issue of inheritance, and this is of course important. But just as important is the emotional void caused by the death of a life partner, and the comfort that can be taken from a supportive environment during the bereavement process.

One of the most comforting things about a funeral service is knowing that it is being conducted in the way that the deceased person would have wanted. Unless there are extraordinary circumstances, those wishes should always be respected.


Entry filed under: Culture, Ireland, Religion.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. loopyloo350  |  November 21, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    This is not just a same sex partner issue. My brother died last year and because he was such a loner and didn’t keep in touch with all of us all the time my sister that is three years younger than me was the one the sheriff’s dept. notified. She took his body, had him cremated, scattered his ashes without even letting the rest of us know he had died. We found out because another sisters stepdaughter worked for the police dept. and discovered what she had done. Things like this happen more often than you know and it is very sad. Because I was oldest you would think I should have been a part of decisions but since I am only a half sister, I had absolutely no rights. My sister that were younger had no rights either.

  • 2. irishsof  |  November 21, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    This is an issue that is borderless, as well. It’s part of what gets forgotten in the debate over same-sex marriage here in the U.S.

    It really is a question of individual autonomy, is it not? It’s sad that families are so disrespectful of their loved one’s choices for their final resting place.

  • 3. timethief  |  November 21, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    I agree with irishsof. The issue is the lack of respect for the wishes of family members.

    This then amounts to a cautionary tale. It’s of the utmost importance that each individual express their wishes for the final disposition of their remains in a legal will. Courts will uphold the provisions of properly drafted wills, despite what family members might want.

  • 4. Amkii  |  November 22, 2007 at 8:00 am

    That is ridiculous and very sad. I’m sorry for your loss! I’m also sorry about this situation. I totally agree: people should get their choice of funeral, NO EXCEPTIONS (unless it’s completely outrageous (and even then…))! Well written. Thanks for sharing. I think I may want to look up more on this topic. I want my remains to be done with as I ask…hopefully my final wishes will be respected.


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A blog by Michael Nugent

Welcome to my blog about living in the maddest country on earth. Please feel free to leave a comment.

I also write Bionic Bohs, a blog about following Bohemians football club in the 1970s.


November 2007
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Bionic Bohs

As mentioned above, if you like Irish football and/or cultural nostalgia, I also write Bionic Bohs, a blog about following Bohs in the 1970s.

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