Where are you not allowed to die?

Where are you not allowed to die?

Where are you not allowed to die? 6000 4000 DeadHappy

Let’s kick off with a popular claim of office bores across the land

“did you know that it’s actually illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament?”.

No… we didn’t. Because that doesn’t sound like something that’s true…

So is it illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament?

It’s fair to say that Britain has a colourful legal history. In fact, British laws could be its own pub quiz round. Did you know that, under the Salmon Act 1986, it is illegal to handle salmon in suspicious circumstances? We found this out the hard way.

There’s been talk for years about whether it’s actually illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament or not. There’s even an interesting clause to this supposed law: as the Houses of Parliament is considered a royal place, anyone who kicks the bucket automatically qualifies for a state funeral – fancy right?

To date, there have been at least four deaths on the premises of the Houses of Parliament. Both Guy Fawkes and Sir Walter Raleigh were executed in the Old Palace yard. Spencer Perceval was shot in the lobby of the House of Commons in 1812, becoming the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated. In this same lobby just under 100 years later, Sir Alfred Bilson had a heart attack after casting his vote on a sugar duty bill.

Despite these notable deaths, none of them received a state funeral though.

So, it turns out that, despite its popularity, there has never been any law prohibiting death in the Houses of Parliament. Even the fancy funeral part is apocryphal. Well there you have it… utter tripe. Now brace yourself for the facts, because there are actually places in the world where it is illegal to die – more or less.

Don’t sweat the smallpox

Longyearbyen is a small mining town in Norway somewhere between Svalbard and Narnia. In the 1950s, the townspeople realised that the bodies of Spanish flu victims still hadn’t decomposed from the outbreak in 1918. Given the fact that smallpox wiped out 5% of the world’s population, they weren’t comfortable with it hanging around.

A bit of context – Longyearbyen is nippy, pierce-through-your-shirt-and-take-someone’s-eye-out nippy. Temperatures have been known to drop to -45°C. The climate was so cold that scientists were able to find living traces of Spanish flu nearly a century after it had been eradicated.

As a result, the Longyearbyen cemetery was closed indefinitely in 1918. Whilst dying isn’t necessarily ‘illegal’, anyone who is inconsiderate enough to die is shipped out for burial in the mainland.

High death rate? Then legislate

In 2015 the hillside Italian town of Sellia was home to 537 people, three times fewer people than there were 50 years ago. Most of Sellia’s residences are over 65. The mayor of Sellia, Davide Zicchinella, had an interesting solution to the town’s demographic crisis.

He signed a bill named Ordinanza 11 which made dying in the town illegal. The bill ordered mandatory health checks for all of Sellia’s citizens. Anyone who failed to comply received a €10 fine.

Zicchinella was re-elected the following year after issuing arrest warrants for the remaining Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

We’ll make your surviving family an offer they can’t refuse

Zicchinella could have been inspired by another Italian mayor three years previously. Falciano del Massico, a small town near Naples, had a thriving population of nearly 3,700 people. They too faced a mortal dilemma.

Instead of having too few people, the town began to have too many bodies on their hands. Their cemeteries were packed to the brim. After an unsuccessful attempt at human Jenga, burials started to be outsourced to nearby towns. One of which was under mafia influence, and began to charge a premium for bodies to be buried there.

The ordinance was passed to outlaw dying, at the very least until the cemetery was expanded. The local parish priest reportedly described enforcing it as a ‘challenge’, adding ‘my boss is not gonna be happy about this’.

Dying to get in

A similar strategy was used by the mayor for Sarpournex in France in 2008. After a local court refused to allow the expansion of the overcrowded cemetery at this 260 person hamlet, Mayor Gerard Lalanne took drastic action.

The ordinance stated that “all persons not having a plot in the cemetery and wishing to be buried in Sarpournex are forbidden from dying in the parish.” Adding that offenders would be “severely punished.”

In one of the greatest acts of political hypocrisy, Lalanne died just ten months after issuing this ordinance. Typical, eh? One law for them and another for the rest of us.

The Laws of Man

These places may have made dying illegal but unfortunately, no law can prevent the inevitable (unless you’re our boy JC). Since that’s the case, we might as well get used to the idea and talk about it openly. This attitude informs everything we do at DeadHappy.

Do you have any ideas about what you’d like to happen after you die? Whether that be a kick-ass funeral or leaving a gift for a loved one, DeadHappy can make it happen. Check out our deathwishes today or come up with your own.

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