N.S. funeral home has crematorium licence suspended after mix-up with hospital security

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A Nova Scotia funeral home has had its crematorium licence suspended for two months, after a wrongful cremation that happened last December.

The suspension at Forest Haven Memorial Gardens in Sydney begins on April 28.

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The home is owned by former MLA David Wilton, who attended the hearing held by the Provincial Registrar of Embalmers and Funeral Directors on March 11.

According to the written decision by Registrar Kelly Wyer, Forest Haven hired a third-party transport service to transfer the remains from the Cape Breton Regional Hospital.

The hearing found the employee from the transport service signed the hospital log book for a certain Medical Examiner (ME) case number, but the hospital’s security guard brought out the wrong remains – with a different ME case number.

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The number is labelled on the body bag.

The remains picked up belonged to someone who was supposed to be transferred to another funeral home to be embalmed for a visitation.

“I find as a fact that neither the funeral director nor any other funeral home employee took any steps to verify the identity of the remains when they were delivered to the funeral home or before they were cremated,” read the decision.

It went further to say: “I accept that the Hospital security guard provided the wrong body to (redacted) and that this was the origin of the chain of events that led to the wrongful cremation of (redacted). However, I find that simply relying on the Hospital security guard to provide the requested body, without taking any further steps to satisfy oneself as to the identity of the body, is not sufficient to comply with s. 32C(1)(b) of the Act.”

Back in 2018, the province suspended the licence of another crematorium for 30 days. In that case, the family of a woman said they were presented with the wrong body twice when they arrived for a visitation. They were later told their loved one had been cremated in error.

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After that incident, the province made amendments to strengthen the Act to prevent this type of error.

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The amendments included adding s. 32C. That section requires funeral homes and crematoriums to label remains, ensure that everyone transporting remains is aware of the identity of the remains, and creates standardized processes to ensure the continuous identification of human remains.

The registrar wrote that given the addition of this new section, “a lengthier suspension is warranted.”

The written decision went on to say that Forest Haven’s suspension will extend past the two months and will not end on June 28 “unless on or before that date, Mr. Wilton provides the Registrar with Forest Haven’s documented standardized process to ensure the continuous identification of human remains.”

In a statement, Colton LeBlanc, Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services, said that no family should have to experience what the family in this case went through.

“Now that the hearing has taken place and the registrar has made her decision, the Department will work with the Board of Registration of Embalmers and Funeral Directors and the Funeral Service Association to see what needs to be done to improve compliance with the current legislative requirements,” he said.

In March, the Nova Scotia Board of Registration of Embalmers and Funeral Directors revoked the licence of the funeral director involved with the wrongful cremation.

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