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Death by Headstone: Should Cemeteries Do More to Protect Their Visitors?


Everyone knows that the upkeep of cemeteries varies drastically across the country. Some are pristine  with the grounds well kept, while others are run down, seemingly abandoned. However, there are two things almost all cemeteries have in common despite their conditions; headstones and visitors. 

In May 2016,  a young boy was killed while playing with friends when a headstone fell on top of him in a cemetery in Glasgow, Scotland. According to the eight year old's friends, another child jumped on a gravestone to get onto a wall, causing it to topple over on top of the boy. The death lead to a full on inspection, with 500 to 900 headstones being laid flat due to safety concerns. 

The situation is certainly tragic. But it also begs the question, was it avoidable? Does a cemetery have a responsibility to prevent accidents like this from happening? There is no doubt that there are certain measures that could be taken to prevent an accident like this. For example, gates to prevent children from entering the cemetery at unsupervised times or ensuring the structural integrity of headstones  by implementing certain requirements for placement. BUT, some of the measures available would be impractical based on cost and time required to implement. Not to mention that the ownership of cemeteries ranges from public cemeteries to church ownership, one reason the maintenance of cemeteries doesn't seem uniform. 

There is also the issue of reinforcing old headstones that seem to be unstable. Should a cemetery owner be required to contact the owner of the grave site before taking action to ensure its safety? There are limitless questions regarding the issue.

Currently there is no easy solution for the safety concerns headstones pose to visitors of cemeteries. But one thing is for sure, it is an issue that both the owners of the cemeteries as well as visitors with children should keep in the forefront of their mind. 

Alston Merritt


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