Fraser Health apologizes after releasing body to wrong funeral home

Delta Funeral Home picked up the deceased at Delta Hospital despite the family not signing off.

The Fraser Health Authority is apologizing after staff at Delta Hospital released a man’s body to the wrong funeral home earlier this month.

After he passed away on June 16, Tom Smallwood’s body was sent the hospital to Delta Funeral Home even though the family had not given their consent.

According to Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma, the mix up was caused by in part by hospital staff not following procedure.

“We have very clear processes in place when it comes to releasing a body of a loved one, and in this case unfortunately it was not followed correctly,” Juma said. “We have already taken steps to remind staff of the protocols that need to be followed. We’ve also reached out to the funeral homes that are involved to ensure that the situation is resolved, but also to remind them of what our protocols are.”

Typically a family would secure a funeral home to make the necessary arrangements, and then the funeral home would come to the hospital and present documentation that indicates that they have consent of the family to take the body. The hospital would then sign off and release the body into the funeral home’s care.

“That’s the process that didn’t happen [at the hospital] in this case, was the checking of that documentation,” Juma said.

The mistake was discovered and rectified less than 24 hours after the funeral home had taken Smallwood’s body away. Juma wasn’t sure of exact timeline, but said when the hospital received a call from another funeral home coming to pick up Smallwood’s remains, “that’s when the wheels were set into motion to rectify that situation.”

“It’s highly, highly unusual for a funeral home to come pick up a body without having secured consent from the family,” she said. “It’s not something that we’ve encountered before.”

Delta Funeral Home referred the Reporter to Arbour Memorial, its parent company, for comment. Director of marketing and communication Dustin Wright would not comment on the Smallwood’s particular case, but said in most cases, “the family’s verbal consent is often sufficient for us to initiate the transfer.”

Juma said the hospital immediately reached out to the family to apologize and has offered to support them in any way that is necessary.

Smallwood’s daughter Sherry told CKNW she’s not satisfied with the apology because the stress robbed her of her chance to grieve her father’s death properly.