Wednesday 14 April 2021

Buried, burned or dissolved? Dutch modernise rules for dealing with the dead


Rules and regulation surrounding burials and cremations will be changed in the coming year to accommodate the wishes of the deceased and the family, home minister Kajsa Ollongren announced on Friday.

The introduction of resomation, dissolving the body in liquid, will also be looked at, the minister said. This technique is currently not allowed in the Netherlands but Ollongren has asked the health council to advise on the matter. A report is expected in 2020.

D66 MP Monica den Boer had earlier asked for the rules to be modernised following signals from families who wanted more freedom of choice when disposing of their loved ones, including the stipulation that bodies be buried after a wait of at least 36 hours after death.

According to Jewish and Islamic tradition, people should be buried as soon as possible after death. ‘We want all common religions in the Netherlands to be able to practice their beliefs, without having to apply for special procedures,’ Den Boer said at the time.

Under the new rules this will now be made possible.

Families also said they objected to the word ‘lijk’, or corpse on the death certificate as ‘unnecessarily hurtful’. This may now be replaced by ‘body’.


Families will also be able to pick up urns containing the ashes of their relatives from crematoria earlier than the current one-month wait.

There will also be a solution for crematoria and funeral directors who are left with urns that are not collected by relatives, the minister said.

What will not be allowed is to bury more than one person in one coffin or to cremate them together. According to the minister that could make it easier to hide a crime. There will also be clearer guidelines about mixing up the ashes of two people, as proposed by D66.

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