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5 places where dying is banned by law

From health reasons to religious ones, here's why these cities have prohibited death in all forms

Image Credit: Creative Commons
The gate to the holy shrine at Itsukushima in Japan

Can you defy or delay death? These towns are taking some pretty drastic measures to ensure that no one dies on their land. 

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Sellia, Italy

The reason for this hard-to-enforce but serious policy in this small town? The town has just over 500 residents, most of whom are well into their 60's. While the law prohibits getting sick and dying, the intent is to encourage people to do regular check-ups, stay healthy and avoid doing anything that would reduce their lifespan. Booking an annual check-up appointment gives you a small tax credit while doing anything unhealthy can stack up your dues in fines.

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Longyearbyen, Norway

The enforcement of this prohibition is very reasonable here as the extremely cold temperatures don’t allow decomposition of human bodies. So much so that live virus samples of the Spanish flu that killed scores of people from 1918 to 1920 were extracted from one of the buried bodies, most probably flu victims. Now, the dying or the dead are moved to other parts of Norway for final rites and burial.


Itsukushima, Japan

Mythical and religious reasons are why dying or giving birth are prohibited on this Unesco World Heritage Site since 1878. To maintain the purity of the shrine and the island, commoners weren’t even allowed to set foot on the island for a long time. The gate to the shrine and the shrine itself appear to be floating during high tide due to its unique design. Pregnant women nearing delivery dates and very elderly or terminally sick people are moved to the mainland as burials and births on the island are strictly prohibited.

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Le Lavandou, France

What could the mayor do when there was no more space for burying people? The order declared in the early 2000s was a bid to force the government to approve the original cemetery plans for a burial area near the sea. So, what happens if you ‘break the law’? For people from large families, booking space in the family plot (if any) is an option. However, if you aren’t from there, your body could either be shipped back to your city of origin or your remains would be stored in an urn placed in one of many nameless pigeon holes in the wall. Pretty sad.

Other similar situations in France include towns such as Cugnaux (order came into force in 2007) and Sarpourenx (dying banned since 2008).

Biritiba Mirim in Brazil

2005 was when this small town decided to ban death, again for want of space and environmental protection laws. Biritiba Mirim is a town on the ‘green belt’ of farmland that produces food for Sao Paulo and the town alone produces 90 per cent of the watercress consumed in all of Brazil. Protected forests and underground water sources make this town invaluable.

This meant that an environment protection decree prohibits building of new cemeteries or cremation for protection of resources. With a population of 28,000 people, the town mayor took a drastic decision, one that possibly will never be enforced permanently but would hopefully bring attention to the issue. No one can die in the town, because no one can be buried or cremated any time soon.

More cities including Lanjaron in Spain (banned dying in 1999) and Falciano del Massico (declared ban on dying in 2012) in Italy have similar space issues.

- Information sourced from news reports over the past decade


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