Kent Funeral Home Spends Thousands 'Super-Sizing' To Cope With Obesity

SWNS  |  Posted: Updated: 18/05/2012 15:35

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The funeral home has spent thousands adapting their facilities

An undertaker has been forced to spend £40,000 ‘super-sizing’ his business so staff can cope with the increasing number of obese bodies brought to them.

John Weir is believed to be the first funeral home owner in the country to take the drastic measures so he can continue to bury Britain's bulging corpses.

Mr Weir, a funeral director of forty years, has had to install a hoist capable of lifting 50 stone, buy wider, reinforced steel trollies, jumbo-sized fridges, widen doorways and bigger gowns.

His supersize funeral home has been completed a month after a specially designed morgue in Gloucestershire, built with extra wide refrigeration chambers and reinforced trolleys at a £4.3m price tag.

Some of the bodies being brought to Weir funeral home are so large, health and safety laws mean they can't be carried into their funerals - so the undertaker has had to buy reinforced trollies to wheel the coffins into the church or crematorium.

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The larger coffins on casters

Hospital morgues and crematoriums across Britain have already made alterations, including super-sized furnaces, to cope with the nation's expanding waistline.

Weir's business, in Medway, Kent, is believed to be the first funeral parlour in the country to follow the trend, already commonplace in the US.

Mr Weir, who owns several funeral homes across Kent and has been in the business for four decades and claimed he had witnessed a"serious rise in the number of obese clients".

In the past his firm has had to deal with a corpse weighing 31 stone, which he yesterday admitted was a sad "sign of the times."

Mr Weir said: "Over the last five years there has been a serious rise in the number of obese people in Medway we are arranging funerals for.

"Sometimes we can have two obese funerals to deal with a week and it was coming a problem fitting their bodies into our mortuary fridges.

"We also have to take people’s weight into account when we organise services, as usually if someone is obese, they can’t be carried into a chapel or church by their loved ones or pallbearers.

"We have to do risk assessments on each and every one, which means sometimes, sensitively, we do have to tell families it’s not possible.

"It’s key to us to maintain people’s dignity, not only for the dead, but for their families too.

"We couldn’t struggle into a church carrying an overweight person, we would arrange for the casket to be in the chapel ahead of the family and friends when arrive for the service.

"Everything has to be bigger, the chapel doors have been widened, we’ve had to buy wider, longer and sturdier trollies and even have to get bigger shrouds and gowns.

"We need to create normality for families of larger people, but I also have to
be mindful of the health and safety of my staff.

"Large people are younger than most when they die, too. We often deal with a funeral of a large person who has died prematurely."

Statistics released this year in a report into Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet by the NHS show that just over a quarter of adults in the UK are now classified as obese.

In 2010 26% of the UK population were considered to be obese, up from 23% in 2005 and 21 in 2000.

A report by the NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre also revealed Britain has seen a rise in obesity over the last decade of more than 10%.

The same report also shows the number of hospital admissions with primary diagnosis of obesity has skyrocketed over the same period from 1,054 in the year 2000/01 to 11,574 in 2010/11.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "We all have a role to play in helping people to make better choices.

"We are already making progress nationally through change4life which is helping families to eat well and the responsibility deal where manufacturers are helping us to help people cut their calories.

"We need to make sure people have the information they need to live well and live longer"

Measuring up for a larger coffin
obese woman measured
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Filed by Felicity A Morse  |