Bill seeks to penalize detention of dead bodies by morgues, funeral parlors

A lawmaker is batting for the passage of new legislation that would criminalize the detention of dead bodies by morgues and funeral parlors on grounds of nonpayment of mortuary services.

Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr. proposed in House Bill No. 1292 that any employee or officer of a morgue or funeral home who withholds the release of a cadaver as security for payment of mortuary services would face up to six months in prison plus a fine of up to P50,000.

“It is cruel and inhuman for morgues and funeral homes to hold hostage the remains of the deceased for financial gain. It is a shameful and anti-poor business practice that should be condemned by Congress,” Campos said.

Under the bill, it would be unlawful for providers of embalming, burial, and cremation services to hold up the release of a cadaver directly or indirectly for failure of family members to settle the cost of mortuary services.

The bill puts the Department of Health in charge of enforcing the prohibition.

The measure specifies that surviving family members unable to pay any mortuary charges may claim a dead body, complete with all the necessary release papers, by simply executing a promissory note with a co-maker.

The year 2021 was the “deadliest” in Philippine history, with a total of 879,429 reported deaths in the country and among Filipinos overseas, according to the Commission on Population and Development.

The number includes 105,723 deaths related to the COVID-19 pandemic.