Aid sought for family in mortuary mix-up

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 March, 2006, 12:00am

Officials will help the family of the man whose body was mistakenly cremated in a mortuary blunder seek financial assistance to pay for funeral rites.

But Deputy Director of Health Leung Ting-hung said a decision had not yet been made on whether the family of Wong Yin-chau would be compensated for their pain and suffering. Officials were considering this option, he said.

Speaking on a radio programme yesterday morning, he said the department had liaised with food and environmental health officials to find a suitable final resting place for Wong's cremated remains in one of the nine columbaria in Hong Kong.

His remains have now been returned to the family after DNA tests confirmed his identity, Dr Leung said.

'Since we understand the family will have to incur extra costs to conduct funeral rituals, we are seeing whether there is some sort of financial assistance that could be provided.'

Two Fu Shan Public Mortuary workers are facing possible criminal charges pending a police investigation into their alleged cover-up of the corpse mix-up earlier this month, which saw the body of Wong Fong-ho, 90, cremated three days earlier than intended and by the wrong family.

Disciplinary action has also been initiated against the pair and they could face penalities ranging from fines to sacking for destroying papers and identification tags to hide the blunder rather than making the mistake known to the families involved.

The switch was discovered on March 14, when Wong's family went to collect the body for cremation.

The workers have since been put on other duties pending the investigation.

Hau Kong-lung, the forensic pathologist in charge of Hong Kong's public mortuaries and who was also on the show, said it was important to restore public confidence in the public mortuary service. But he stressed that it was unlikely this would be accomplished in the short term.