Not in the same way that you can in the UK. In France the law says that bodies cannot be buried without a coffin and regulates the production of coffins, including its thickness (18-22mm), that it has a waterproof lining and that it should be sealable. Therefore, shrouds, bamboo or jute and many other eco materials cannot be used here, but there are some bio-degradable paper/cardboard fibre coffins which meet the French regulations. Probably the greenest funeral in France is a cremation without the body having been embalmed. Modern crematoria have made significant reductions in emissions and bio-degradable urns are available.
→ Can my ashes be buried on my land?
This is possible as is the burial of a coffin on your own land, but permissions must be obtained from the Préfecture following a geological report and from the Mayor (an interment permit). Town halls will, however, rarely grant the interment permit. Following a recent change in the law Ashes may not be scattered on private land, including your garden.
→ Where else can ashes be scattered?
They can be spread in a rememberance garden or scattered “in nature” e.g. a forest, anywhere in France except public highways (including “managed” rivers), public parks and, now, in private gardens. They can be scattered at sea, as long as this is done further than 150m from the shoreline, and they can be returned to another country, however authorisation for transport of the ashes will be required from the Préfecture, the funeral director will obtain these for you.
→ Can I keep the urn in my home?
Since a change in the law on 19.12.2008, this is not allowed. The ashes within the urn are recognised, in France, as having the same status as a body.
→ Can I make a “Living Will” in France?
A French law passed on 22nd April 2005 allows people to make a ‘ testament de fin de vie‘(the will of life’s end) or ‘ directives anticipées’(anticipated directives). This is similar to an English “Living Will” and expresses what an individual would like to happen regarding limitation or stopping of treatment at a time when they lose consciousness at the end of their life.
Anyone over 18 can make a Living Will, which will be valid for 3 years and can be renewed by written confirmation every following 3 years. It can also be revoked at any time.
The document must be hand written, dated and signed and it should contain surname, first name, date and place of birth. It can also detail a reliable person, a parent, friend or general practitioner, who is to be consulted by the doctor’s. If the person is unable to write or sign the document two people, one of which is the person named as above, to witness that the document expresses the free will of the person concerned. Itl needs to be easily accessible by the doctor who has to make these decisions. It is ideal, therefore, that it should be kept in their medical file.
One issue ….The doctor is obliged to consult the Living Will and the reliable person, but nothing appears to oblige him/her to follow the wishes.
→ I wish to donate my organs, what should I do?
In France it is assumed that organs can be used for transplant unless you have formerly opted out. If you want to proactively encourage donation you can obtain an organ donor card from www.france-adot.org. If you wish to opt out you must register this on www.dondorgans.fr or detail your wishes in a will left somewhere that it can be found quickly.
→ Can I leave my body to science?
Yes. See the tab Donating your body.
→ When I die, do my family have to use a funeral director?
No, your body can lay at rest in your home until the funeral. However certain things will need to be done to preserve the body (see http://www.afif.asso.fr/english/ddhome.htm ) and if the weather is hot your body may need to be embalmed. A coffin can be purchased and the funeral arranged directly with the Mairie and Church or Crematorium. Guidance will be required to ensure that all legalities are followed, eg Gendarmes will be required to check the seal on the coffin and permissions to transport the coffin will be required if it is to leave the home commune.
→ How can funeral costs be paid? Financing funerals (information sourced from the AFIF – Association Française d’Information Funéraire website
→ Could my body be frozen (cryopreservation)?
No, only burial and cremation are recognised in France and, therefore, all other methods of disposing of the body are not allowed.
More to come …but until then, the same questions is poping out our minds, Cremation or Donation?