A bill that requires coroners to consider the cultures of grieving families when deciding whether to let whānau touch or stay with the bodies of their loved ones has passed its third reading in Parliament.
The Coroners (Access to Body of Dead Person) Amendment Bill makes it an explicit requirement for coroners to consider cultural considerations when determining who can view, touch, or remain near a tūpāpaku (body of a deceased person).
"I understand this already happens in practice, and is included in guidance for coroners. However, it is not a legislative requirement and this bill will ensure that cultural beliefs are explicitly considered as a matter of course," Justice Minister Andrew Little said.
The Coroners Act did not require coroners to take tikanga Māori and cultures into consideration when considering requests from family to touch or remain with the tūpāpaku.
But after families raised concerns during a Māori Affairs select committee inquiry into support for grieving whanau, the bill was introduced that made such consideration a requirement rather using discretion.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
In its report on the Inquiry into Whānau Access to and Management of Tūpāpaku, the committee said it considered the lack of communication between agencies and whānau the biggest barrier to whānau accessing and managing tūpāpaku.
"We received many submissions from affected whānau highlighting the grief, anger and frustration they felt because the process was not communicated properly or appropriately," the committee said.
Little said the bill did not seek to change the current practice of coroners but ensured the practice of taking cultural considerations into account was more visible and concrete for those who dealing with "what will usually be an unimaginable loss."