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Arch Hellen Med, 33(1), January-February 2016, 98-106


Medicolegal issues arising from the implementation of cremation in Greece

Κ. Katsos, Κ. Moraitis, C. Spiliopoulou
Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, School of Medicine, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece

The only certainty in human life is death. Almost all cultures believe in the existence of spiritual beings and in some form of afterlife. Disposal of the dead tends to be closely tied with these beliefs. Cremation is one of the practices of disposal which began to be reinstated in Europe in the late 19th century and it is now permitted and implemented in most member countries of the European Union and in many other countries around the world. The establishment of a Cremation Center in Greece has been delayed despite the intermission of 9 years since the first relevant act of legalization. In Greece, the involvement of the forensic pathologist in the process of cremation arises from the certificate that is required to be issued according to the law 4277/2014. This article discusses this issue, based on a literature review of the problems encountered in countries that have been performing cremations for many years. Cremation was, is, and probably will continue to be, a thorny issue for Greek society, but it is a funeral practice that is accepted by a large number of people worldwide and this issue needs to be confronted in all its aspects. The discussion highlights the ambiguity of the legal framework concerning the involvement of the forensic pathologist in the process of cremation. The forensic pathologist is neither a police officer nor a judge but serves as an expert on issues related to medical science.

Key words: Cremation, Forensic medicine, Greece.

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