Ontario ban on cremation after brachytherapy draws scrutiny

The Canadian province of Ontario is examining rules that ban the cremation of patients who have died after receiving brachytherapy implants as part of radiation therapy treatments. Opponents of the ban say it has led to some patients refusing to receive brachytherapy, according to a March 7 article by CBC News.

Ontario officials began reviewing the law following the publication of a story about a Toronto family that was told they couldn't cremate their father because he had received brachytherapy before he died. Only Ontario and Saskatchewan have laws in place forbidding cremation of patients treated with brachytherapy.

The fear is that radiation from brachytherapy seeds that are still radioactive could contaminate cremation equipment. Indeed, that's exactly what happened in Arizona in 2017, where residual traces of radioactivity were detected on equipment after the cremation of a man who had received brachytherapy.

However, there are a number of rules in place to prevent contamination from brachytherapy seeds in cremated patients, according to brachytherapy experts. In Canada, experts have called the Ontario rules "outdated"; having crematory personnel take precautions such as wearing a mask is enough to prevent harmful exposure to radioactivity, they added.

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