‘Tandem Burials’



It occurred in “exceptional circumstances” in the case of a new born baby who died in hospital and where the other options for burial, in a hospital or religious plot, “were not selected.”The remains of the baby would then be placed in a coffin of another deceased person, an adult.

Hospitals put babies’ bodies in coffins with adults (RTE)

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36 thoughts on “‘Tandem Burials’

  1. ReproBertie

    Two quotes from the artice:
    “It is understood that the practice would have occurred in a number of cases to ensure that a baby was buried in consecrated ground”
    “the remains would have been placed with adult remains and that ideally the awareness and understanding of both families involved would have been sought, though this is not guaranteed”

    So were the hospital staff trying to help grieving parents of presumably unbaptised children have their children buried on consecrated ground by smuggling them into the coffins of adults heading for the same ground? If both families were OK with it (“though this is not guaranteed”) then what’s the big deal?

      1. ReproBertie

        The understanding was that consent was usually sought through this was not always possible. They don’t say in the article why it was not always possible but a possible reason would be there being no family to provide consent.

        I think you’re making a much bigger deal of this.

        1. Don Pidgeoni

          As below, it doesn’t matter one bit if you couldn’t find a family member. If they were of the same family, then yes but two strangers? Its a big deal because its about ethics in burial Repro. I would be livid if this had happened to someone in my family but if you would be cool with it, good on you.

          1. ReproBertie

            Would you be livid if it happened to somebody in your family with the consent of your family?

            You’re reading the lack of consent as the hospital just doing it and saying nothing. I’m reading it an entirely different way. We may both be correct in differnet cases. In the cases where you are correct then, yes, that’s unacceptable but without further information I’m reserving judgement.

          2. Don Pidgeoni

            Repro, in some cases it sounds like no one got the choice and the hospital did it and said nothing. This is the story. I’m not sure how else you would read it?

          3. ReproBertie

            Yes, that’s your reading of it. My reading of it is either
            a: In some cases there were no surviving living relatives to the deceased adult so no consent could be obtained or
            b: as there is no record of the consent being obtained (beyond what amounts to nothing more than hearsay) they cannot say with any certainty whether it was or wasn’t.

          4. Don Pidgeoni

            I am curious. In your case A – say, there is an old dead person with no relatives that can be found and a baby whose parents would like their baby buried on consecrated ground. Do you that is ethically ok to bury the baby with the old person?

            Case B generally means we are covering our a** because consent was never sought to begin with.

          5. ReproBertie

            In reference to A do you think it’s ethically correct to deny parents the slight comfort of knowing their child is buried in consecrated ground? Which is more ethically incorrect – putting the child into the coffin of someone who has no family to give or deny consent or leaving those parents with an extra level of suffering while dealing with the death of a child? I know which option I’d choose every single time.

            That’s your interpretation of B and, given that those who remember the practice said that consent was sought, it’s not an interpretation backed up by any evidence.

          6. Don Pidgeoni

            Unless you have the ok from the other person yes, that s completely unethical. That is also being completely and utterly selfish.

            And b – isn’t it lucky there is no evidence to support either side? Lucky but not suspicious at all…..

          7. ReproBertie

            Yes it is unethical but what about the second question? Placing a dead baby in the coffin of someone who has no living relatives to give their consent, with the consent of the baby’s parents, is unethical but hurts nobody. Denying the parents the comfort of knowing their child is in consecrated ground hurts people. To you it’s better to deny the parents that comfort because to do otherwise is to be unethical and selfish. Come to think of it, the denial of comfort on ethical grounds that you’re advocating is the same sort of thinking that forced people to hide babies in coffins.

            It’s only suspicious because you want it to be. As I said on more than one occasion, this was not something that would have a paper trail so evidence is purely hearsay.

          8. Don Pidgeoni

            Losing a child is awful. It doesn’t mean you can force your will onto someone else, dead or alive.

          9. ReproBertie

            The dead don’t care what we do. You’ll note the lack of letters from the dead complaining about unwanted children in their coffins. If there are no living relatives then I see no issue. You would choose the ethical path that causes more suffering to the living but leaves your conscience clear, just like the clergy that had no problem denying grieving parents the use of consecrated ground. Good for you. In this situation I’d happily choose the other path and sleep soundly.

          10. Don Pidgeoni

            You see no issue, I do. You could have left it there without comparing this to a completely different situation like a complete d***face. But yay for you on the internets!

        2. ReproBertie

          Bit close to the bone was it?

          Of course it’s not a completely different issue. It was meant as a reminder of a reason behind the tandem burials in the first place. The staff were obviously stuck in a horrible situation where they had distraught parents being told their deceased newborn couldn’t get a proper burial and, seeing their suffering, gave them another option. There were clearly also families happy to allow the parents piggyback on their own burials.

          Times have since changed but now, rather than look at why what happened happened, we’ll villify the staff that did it. No doubt you’re busy sharpening your pitchfork and stoking your outrage.

          1. Don Pidgeoni

            Only close to the bone Repro if you see the world as all black and white don’t comprehend that people have different opinions about different issues. I shouldn’t be surprised by your complete inability to understand any of the nuance of this issue that I have been trying to get across. So, laters I guess.

          2. ReproBertie

            Wow, and here was me thinking you refuse to see any nuance in this because you are set in a black and white, or ethical and non-ethical, view of the whole thing while I was trying to show you the grey area. No doubt if we were discussing this over a pint both sides would be clearer but such is the price of bland text.

            I’m well aware that people have different opinions. I’m also well aware that some people leap to their opinions based on insufficient evidence and then refuse to budge come hell or high water.

            Your entire argument seemed, to me, to be based on the cases where there is no evidence that consent was granted. My response was that in some cases, e.g. last surviving member of a family, consent could not be obtained and in those cases, while ethically dodgy, the right thing was done. You disagree because, apparently, the ethics of the situation are more important to you than the comfort of the living. Can you deny that or will you just resort to name calling again?

            If it was a thing that consent was denied and the bodies were smuggled into the coffins anyway then that is an entirely different matter but, as no records were kept either way, we’ll never know how many cases of any type there were.

      1. ReproBertie

        You see doublespeak, I see someone trying to trace back to something that happened in an unrecorded manner up to the 1980’s and, as a result, having no access to specific details.

  2. cousinjack

    I don’t see how this is a big story assuming that the hospitals had parental consent to dispose of the remains, other than our cultural obsession with death

    1. Don Pidgeoni

      From article “The letter says it is not certain that the families of both of the deceased would always have been informed of the practice.”

      1. ReproBertie

        That quote from the article refers to the quote from the letter which I posted where they said “ideally the awareness and understanding of both families involved would have been sought”. That suggests that, however small the number of tandem burials, the number of tandem burials where one family was unaware was even smaller. It’s just possible that in some cases there was no surviving family of the adult to be made aware. (I’m assuming the families that were unaware were the families of the adult since it is more likley that the child’s family were the one’s requesting the tandem burial.)

        1. Don Pidgeoni

          It doesn’t really matter how many took place or if you couldn’t find a family member. People deserve to be treated with respect, not all bunched in together. It should be “always” not “ideally”.

          1. ReproBertie

            It shoud be always but we don’t know enough about the data behind the letter and are instead getting bogged down in the wording.

          2. ReproBertie

            Yes, it was carefully chosen because they are looking into a practice that continued up to the 1980’s. It’s not the sort of practice that involved filling out a form and filing said form away for future auditing. They have nothing solid to go on and cannot say with any certainity how many tandem burials there were nor who the people involved were.

  3. Kieran NYC

    By the way – what’s the deal if you don’t want to go through a Catholic/religious funeral? Are there nondenominational or atheist graveyards?

    I want to be cremated, so doesn’t make much odds. But just curious. The desperation here to smuggle a dead baby into ‘consecrated ground’ got me wondering.

    1. delacaravanio

      There’s a few non-denominational, but they tend to be private, rather than council run, and in/near Dublin.

      There’s major demand growing for non-denominational graves across the country.

      1. Kieran NYC

        Cheers for that.

        You can have a non-religious birth, schooling (if you’re lucky), marriage, but currently they still manage to get you in death.

    2. Lorcan Nagle

      A friend of mine was cremated in a Humanist cermeony in a chapel on the grounds of Mount Jerome earlier this year. No mention of religion at all.

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