Exhumation and other issues

Exhumation of human remains

In certain conditions, for example, if family wish to move the remains to another cemetery or country, or if the cemetery is being closed, approvals may be granted for exhumation of human remains. Application for permission can be made to the relevant Local Health District Public Health Unit.

AIDS and other infectious diseases

In NSW, there are strict health regulations to control the handling and disposal of bodies with certain infectious diseases. Infectious conditions fall into two categories: List A and List B (Public Health (Disposal of Bodies) Regulation 2002, clause 3).

List A diseases

List A diseases include:

  • hepatitis
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

In most circumstances deceased persons with a List A disease may be able to be viewed. The request should be discussed with the funeral director.

List B diseases

List B diseases include:

  • tuberculosis
  • diphtheria
  • plague
  • smallpox
  • respiratory anthrax
  • any viral haemorrhagic fever.

The regulations don’t allow bodies infected with a List B disease to be embalmed. Funeral industry employees are required to wear protective clothing when dealing with deceased persons who had infectious diseases, and they must handle the body in a manner approved by the regulations.

Transportation of bodies overseas

Health regulations restrict overseas transportation of bodies with infectious diseases. Countries will not accept bodies that have not been cleared by quarantine. This can cause problems for people when a family member has died from a contagious disease outside their own country and cannot be returned for burial or cremation. In these circumstances, it is usually easier to arrange cremation overseas and transport the ashes to Australia.

Bodies bequeathed for scientific research

If a person has decided to bequeath their body for research, they should let their relatives, nursing home or hospital know. The institution should be notified of the death as soon as possible so that staff can prepare to receive the body if they require it. Relatives usually hold a memorial service after the death.

If the body is accepted, the institution arranges a small funeral (which could be four to six years later) at its expense. Relatives are advised.