Dying is illegal in Longyearbyen, Norway because the town’s small graveyard stopped accepting bodies after discovering the permafrost prevented the bodies from decomposing.
Circulating messages suggest that it is ‘illegal’ to die in Longyearbyen, a town in Norway, because it has a small graveyard which stopped accepting bodies after it was discovered that the permafrost in the place prevented the dead bodies from decomposing. Yes, the latter part is a fact, but as such it is not illegal to die in Longyearbyen.
Longyearbyen is located in the Arctic region and is the largest settlement and the administrative center of Svalbard, Norway. This is because of its remoteness, sound geology and the ambient temperature of the permafrost. Permafrost is a thick subsurface layer of soil that remains frozen throughout the year, occurring mainly in polar regions. Longyearbyen is not a fully facilitated residential area and only few people live there – solely for work purpose. As of 2008, the town had a population of mere 2,040 and has a small graveyard that stopped accepting dead bodies from more than 70 years, after it was discovered that the bodies were failing to decompose because of the permafrost in the region. Few years back scientists tested a dead body there and found traces of the influenza virus which killed him and many others in an epidemic in 1917.
Because of the remote location of Longyearbyen and its harsh climate, the community of people living there have no facilities to care for the old or frail. All this, including the burial facilities are only available on the mainland. As mentioned in the Statistics Norway publication:
No nursing and care services
There is no provision of nursing and care services on Svalbard, and Norwegian health and social legislation does not apply to the archipelago. Norwegian residents retain health care coverage with their home municipality on the mainland, and it is these municipalities that are responsible for services within the social and health sectors and in the event that nursing and care services are required. In other words, Longyearbyen is not organised as a place where people can live their entire lives, but rather a place one comes to work.
It is for these reasons, the “no death” policy came up in Longyearbyen. Although not illegal, it is forbidden to die in this Arctic town of Longyearbyen. This no death policy seems to have been misinterpreted by someone, that dying in Longyearbyen is illegal and against law. Such a law does not make sense, for the simple reason that people cannot be punished for dying. When someone is gravely ill in Longyearbyen, they are generally despatched to another part of Norway to end their days.
Hoax or Fact:
Why dying is forbidden in the Arctic
This is Svalbard – Statistics Norway publication