New cremation law will prohibit sale of person’s remains

The proposed law will also allow for people to tell authorities whether they would or would not like to be cremated after their death

A Bill to regulate cremation will start being discussed in Parliament this week
A Bill to regulate cremation will start being discussed in Parliament this week

The sale or auction of urns containing people’s remains will be prohibited under the provisions of a proposed law regulating cremation.

Cremation is currently not practiced in Malta and there are no regulations governing the practice.

Parliament is expected to start debating a Bill to regulate cremation on Thursday.

Following the launch of a public consultation on the proposed law, which came to an end some two weeks ago, minor amendments were made to the Bill.

Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne said the law was the result of government's desire to respect people’s choices.

Fearne noted that consultations with various stakeholders had already been held before the consultation period, with some 24 detailed submissions having been received since February.

Health Minister Chris Fearne (centre) and Labour MP Roseanne Cutajar said the law would lay down the conditions to obtain a license to operate a crematorium
Health Minister Chris Fearne (centre) and Labour MP Roseanne Cutajar said the law would lay down the conditions to obtain a license to operate a crematorium

He said the law would legalise and regulate the practice, while laying down clear conditions necessary for one to obtain a license issued by the Superintendence for Public Health.

He said the law would be seeking to impose the highest standards for operators, with the superintendence being obliged to inspect and ensure adherence to regulations.

Operators will be required to keep a detailed register of the processes used and individuals cremated.

Government MP Rosianne Cutajar, who piloted the reform, said the proposed law showed that the government did not shy away from dealing with sensitive or uncomfortable topics.

Cutajar said the government had gone beyond its electoral pledge to discuss the subject as evidenced by the fact that parliament would be discussing a new law this week.

She explained that the Bill presented to parliament has been updated to reflect some of the points raised over the course of the public consultation, including the setting up a register where people can make known whether they would like to be cremated once they die.

The decision, she said, will ultimately still lie with the individual's next of kin, but the register would be a way for people to make their feelings known either way.

She said that over the course of the formulation of the law, it had become apparent to her that many people preferred this option, for a number of reasons.

Some, she said, believed it was more hygienic, others felt it was more dignified, while there were also those who preferred cremation for environmental reasons, including Malta’s lack of space.

There were also considerations related to religious freedoms, Cutajar said.

Turning to the issue of emissions from crematoria, Cutajar stressed that there were “advanced technologies” like “bio-cremation” that rdid not require burning.

Furthermore, she said cremation also allowed people to be able to retain a physical memory of their loved one.

Cutajar said the law would allow people to spread their loved one’s ashes at sea excluding designated swimming areas, from any aircraft, in a private residence, or in a designated open space.

Urns holding remains can also be kept at home or displayed in another building provided that there is the consent of the building’s owner.

Mother and babies that die during childbirth, as well as stillborn twins can be cremated at the same time, according to the Bill’s provisions.

The Bill also proposes the exhumation and cremation of an individual.

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