Funeral provision in the UK was significantly disrupted when COVID-19 infection control policies constrained how and by whom bodies could be attended to and moved to burial/cremation sites; how funeral directors and celebrants could communicate with bereaved families; and possibilities for gathering for funerals, mourning and memorialising activities. The regulations generated significant distress and perceptions of injustice. They also prompted the development of new funeral practices – inviting important questions about funeral provision.
This interdisciplinary research starts from a recognition of funeral provision as a form of care (and set of caring practices) oriented towards people who have died and their bereaved family, friends and communities. It addresses neglected ethical aspects of funeral provision, including, in the context of COVID-19, questions of fairness and the moral dimensions of distress evident in family members’ and funeral directors’ worries about not fulfilling important responsibilities, or doing wrong, to those who have died or been bereaved.
Our ethical analyses will be grounded in an ethnographic examination of changed practices and experiences that includes:
(1) analysis of funeral artefacts, including online films, tribute pages, and written accounts;
(2) interviews with 24-30 diverse bereaved family members, 16-20 funeral directors and 16-20 celebrants.
We will attend carefully to what people consider good and right (or not) and why in different circumstances. We will develop practical ethical analyses of post-death care that address tensions between different purposes of funerals and diverse perspectives on post-death responsibilities.
Discussion events with key stakeholders will inform the development of resources for future policy and practice.
This research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19.
The project is led by Vikki Entwistle.
The project website is at www.abdn.ac.uk/care-in-funerals
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Vikki Entwistle; firstname.lastname@example.org
Louise Locock; email@example.com
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