Undertakers are wondering why they can’t prepare bodies of non-Muslims at University Hospital.
PETALING JAYA: For more than a year now, funeral service providers have been puzzling over an apparent decision by the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) to bar them from bathing and dressing the bodies of non-Muslims at its mortuary facilities.
They said they had no such problem with any other hospital. Even with UMMC, better known as University Hospital, everything was fine until just over a year ago, they told FMT.
K Parameswaran, an undertaker based in Selangor, said he and others had been asking why the hospital had instituted the rule, but had yet to receive an explanation.
“We enquired from the staff numerous times over the sudden change in policy, but they have always replied that they were merely following instructions,” he said.
He said the rule was a source of inconvenience to both undertakers and grieving families, although it had not caused loss of business.
“At the moment, we take the bodies from University Hospital to Puchong or Sungai Besi to be bathed and dressed,” he said.
“The families have to foot the additional cost. Most of our clients are from the lower income group. Instead of getting the body prepared for free, they now would have to foot RM150 or RM200 more for the additional service.”
Parameswaran said his company had, on several occasions, paid for the additional cost because the families concerned could not afford it.
He explained that it was often inconvenient to prepare the body at the home of the deceased. “Most people nowadays live in flats, where the space is too limited to bath and dress the body.
“Even if you live on landed property, you need some specific equipment. If there is a lack of equipment, we would use a chair to support the body, but you can imagine how inconvenient that can be.”
He also said it would be insensitive to leave it to the family to prepare a body as “their hearts are already heavy with grief, their minds are stressed with the funeral proceedings and other thoughts.”
There is also a cultural complication, he added. “For the Indians, you can only place the body once in the coffin. So transporting and moving the body around does not adhere to this cultural taboo.”
An undertaker who requested anonymity shared similar sentiments and highlighted the problem of delays in delivering bodies to their families.
He said he would have to take the bodies back to his own facilities in Kepong for preparation before delivering them to their families. “Bodies that can be delivered in two hours are delayed for about five hours or so now. It just adds stress for the family, who are already grieving.”
He added that undertakers were reluctant to complain too much because it was important to maintain a working relationship with the hospital. “We work with the hospital regularly and we cannot sour our relationship with them.”
Another undertaker based in Kuala Lumpur, D Govin, said UMMC ruling had affected the industry as a whole in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
“It is just a tremendous inconvenience not to use existing facilities in the hospital and we are all affected by it,” he said. “We just hope that the hospital would provide an explanation.”
FMT has asked UMMC for an explanation and it awaiting a response.