An elderly woman who died alone last month at a hospital in suburban Bærum, west of Oslo, wasn’t buried for 39 days. She had no family, and hospital workers overlooked her body after it was placed in the hospital’s morgue.
Newspaper Budstikka reported that the woman died on October 21, but no one was notified. When persons die in the township of Asker og Bærum, the local agency in charge of carrying out court orders and various legalities (namsfogden) is supposed to register the death. With the lack of family or anyone making funeral arrangements, the death was not registered nor was her body claimed.
State law requires that burial takes place within 10 days of a death. In the event of a death with no family or anyone taking responsibility for a funeral, the task is left to the local agency known as gravferdsetaten. Newspaper Dagen reported recently that a record number of such publicly arranged burials have been registered so far this year.
“Most involved people who were alone, or when we don’t find any relatives,” Wenche Eriksson of gravferdsetaten in Oslo told Dagen. Since the agency was charged with such cases in 1999, 1,064 persons have been buried at public expense.
“It’s sad … it means that they have had a very lonely life, and no one wants such an end,” Eriksson said. In around 20-30 percent of the cases, the agency found relatives, but they wouldn’t assume responsibility.