House panel OKs bill requiring hospitals to release cadavers within 24 hours

MANILA, Philippines – The House committee on Muslim affairs approved a measure that would require hospitals, medical clinics, and other similar facilities to release the deceased within 24 hours from the time of death.

The still unnumbered bill got the approval of the panel chaired by Lanao del Sur 2nd District Representative Mauyag Papandayan Jr.

The measure would amend Republic Act (RA) Number 9439 to specify that medical facilities can only keep cadavers for a maximum of 24 hours upon the time of death, even if the deceased’s relatives have yet to pay the full medical expenses.

In a statement, Papandayan said this is in recognition of the deceased’s religious practices and traditions as Christians, Muslims, or indigenous peoples. He added Muslims are required to bury their dead within 24 hours. 

RA 9439 prohibits the detention of patients as well as dead bodies in medical facilities on the grounds of non-payment of medical fees.  

The law says patients who already wish to leave the medical facility but are financially incapable to settle their fees are allowed to leave, provided they issue a promissory note for the completion of their payment.

The promissory note must be secured by either a mortgage or by a guarantee of a co-maker, who will jointly be liable with the patient for the remaining balance. 

The patients concerned have the right to demand the issuance of the proper medical certificate and other documents needed to release them from the medical facility.

The necessary documents must also be released to the surviving relatives of the dead, including the death certificate. (READ: Family denied death certificate over unpaid hospital bills)

RA 9439, however, does not cover patients who stayed in private rooms. 

Violators of the law stand to face a fine between P20,000 to P50,000 or imprisonment between a month to 6 months, or both. –

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.