You read that right. In some cities across the world, laws have been passed — called Prohibition of Death laws — where they’ve made it illegal to die. Let’s explore the reasons and regions where dying is technically illegal.
In Longyearbyen — a small Norwegian city — it’s been illegal to die since 1950. The city is located on an island about halfway between the country of Norway and the North Pole. And the reason the city outlawed dying is that it’s so cold that bodies in the town cemetery are unable to decompose.
For the terminally ill on the island, they are flown back to the Norwegian mainland to spend their last days. One of the main reasons why dying is illegal is because of disease. In 1998, scientists were able to extract a live specimen of the 1918 flu pandemic virus from a body that was unable to decompose due to the frigid weather.
In the Brazilian municipality of Biritba-Mirim, the mayor proposed a probation of death law. While the local authorities don’t actually enforce the law, it’s meant as a satirical response to a national Brazilian law that prohibits the expansion or creation of new cemetery space.
In Japan, the island of Itsukushima is considered a holy island in the Shinto religion. Both dying and giving birth were banned up until 1868. And to this date, there are no cemeteries or hospitals. Shintoism believes the island and it’s UNESCO World Heritage shrine should be kept pure.
In fact in 1555, in the aftermath of a great battle, Shinto priests removed the fallen troops from the island, scrubbed the buildings cleaned, and even removed soil from the battlefield from the island.
In the small Spanish town of Lanjarón, the prohibition of death was passed much for the same reason it was in Brazil. The city, in a satirical way, has banned death until the government buys new land for a cemetery to bury the dead.
In the small town of Sellia, the mayor recently signed Ordinanza 11. The law states that dying is prohibited. And in addition to dying, it also states that it is forbidden to fall sick within the city limits.
While the law does sound strange, there’s actually some interesting reasoning behind it. The town is facing depopulation as more people are dying than being born in the city. The town’s mayor, Davide Zicchinella said in an interview with the Guardian that the law is meant to encourage regular health checkups and get people to start focusing more on their personal health. Those that don’t attend a regular health checkup are fined. He told the Guardian, “Those who don’t take good care of themselves, or who take on habits that are against their health, will be punished with more taxes.”