In a thought-provoking discussion on Citi TV’s Legal Education Program, ‘A Question of Law’ on the sensitive topic of “Ownership of Dead Bodies and Funerals in Ghana,” private legal practitioner and senior lecturer at the GIMPA Law Faculty, Clement Akapame offered profound insights into the subtle yet critical distinction between the ownership of human remains and the rights to organize a funeral.
During the discussion, the legal expert, emphasized that according to the Ga customary law, the ownership of a dead body belongs to the wider family, encompassing relatives beyond the nuclear family.
“This understanding has been established through precedents and court rulings, recognizing the wider family as the rightful owners of the deceased’s remains.”
The legal expert clarified that despite the wider family’s ownership rights over the body, the right to organize a funeral is not contingent upon ownership.
In other words, anyone, regardless of their relation to the deceased, possesses the liberty to arrange and conduct a funeral ceremony to honour the departed individual.
“It is important to recognize that the rights to organize a funeral and the ownership of the body are distinct and separate entities,” the legal expert affirmed during the discussion.
“While the wider family retains ownership of the body, any individual, be it a close friend or associate of the deceased, has the prerogative to organize a funeral service in their memory.”
However, the expert clarified that the situation changes when someone desires to organize a funeral that involves the physical presence of the body.
In such instances, the right to organize the funeral rest with the wider family, as they have the legal ownership of the deceased’s remains.