In Ontario, there are two classes of funeral director licences, only one of which authorizes a person to perform embalming procedures. In order to obtain a licence authorizing embalming, an applicant must participate in a period of in-service training, commonly referred to as an internship, at a funeral home. During the internship, an applicant must embalm fifty human bodies under the supervision of a preceptor. Preparation Reports are completed by the intern for each embalming performed and these Preparation Reports are reviewed by the preceptor.
In 6086 v. Board of Funeral Services, 2011 CanLII 88463 (ON LAT), two women who interned at the Benisasia Funeral Home (“Benisasia”) each claim to have performed the same six embalmings while maintaining that they did not perform the embalmings together. One of the two women is Ms. Cathy Cowley, a former Registered Practical Nurse. She had completed well-documented embalming reports for six of the embalmings in the group of twenty that the second woman, Ms. Prabhjot Johal, claimed to have done. Ms. Johal was already licensed as a funeral director and was the owner of Benisasia at the same time that she was interning there. She had originally completed her formal education and had interned for twelve months but did not do the requisite fifty embalmings. Accordingly, she was granted a licence as a funeral director without embalming privileges. Most funeral directors strive to obtain embalming privileges for marketability and to enable them to become the Managing Director of a funeral entity that performs such a procedure.
After reviewing Ms. Cowley’s embalming reports, the Executive Committee of the Board of Funeral Services referred allegations of professional misconduct against Ms. Johal to the Discipline Committee. This case is therefore an appeal by Ms. Johal to the Licence Appeal Tribunal (the “Tribunal”) from the decision of the Discipline Committee of the Board of Funeral Services (the “Discipline Committee”) dated April 22, 2010 which imposes a suspension and restrictions on the licence of Ms. Johal as a funeral director.
Amongst the many concerning facts found by the Tribunal during its investigation, were inconsistencies in the reported dates that one of the disputed embalmings was performed; the fact that Ms. Cowley noted the removal of a pacemaker in keeping with the confirmed request of the deceased’s family, while Ms. Johal’s report noted no such removal; and discrepancies in the height and weight of a body that both women claimed to have embalmed. It was found that Ms. Cowley’s estimate of the body’s height and weight were significantly closer to accurate than that of Ms. Johal’s.
In determining who is being truthful in claiming to have performed the six contested embalmings, the Tribunal considered a variety of factors, including the women’s demeanour as potentially related credibility, corroboration by their respective preceptors, prior lies that either of them may have told calling someone’s professional reputation into question, motive and the means and access to perpetrate such a lie.
In the end, the Tribunal concluded that there is overwhelming evidence that Ms. Johal did not perform two of the contested embalmings. The Tribunal also found that the Funeral Board had met the burden of proof, that being on a balance of probabilities, regarding the other four embalmings. The Tribunal found that Ms. Johal did not conduct any of the six contested embalmings for which she claimed credit and that Ms. Cowley had indeed performed them.
The Tribunal appeared to be particularly offended by the fact that Ms. Johal had boldly lied to it in the course of the proceedings. She also attempted to take credit for the work of an intern she employed, namely Ms. Cowley, and she did so in circumstances where, had she been believed, Ms. Cowley`s licence as a funeral director would have been in jeopardy for falsifying Preparation Reports.
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