Caring for Your Own Dead

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It's here! Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death will be published June, 2011, but Funeral Consumers Alliance is shipping copies now ahead of bookstores!

Final Rights
is the definitive book on the modern funeral industry. Written by FCA executive director Josh Slocum and Funeral Ethics Organization leader Lisa Carlson, Final Rights combines journalistic investigation with practical consumer advice. The only book of its kind, Final Rights unveils the tricks of the funeral trade (and how to avoid them) while calling out government regulators who dance to the $15-billion death industry's tune when they're supposed to be protecting you, the funeral consumer.




  • In eight states the law says you have to hire a funeral home, even if you want to care for deceased relative privately.
  • Almost $1 billion has been stolen from trust funds and insurance policies families paid for to ensure their last wishes were carried out. Where were the regulators?
  • Interested in a formaldehyde-free funeral? Better be careful, as the conventional burial industry is finding creative ways to make your "green" send-off as pricey as possible.
  • The Federal Trade Commission gives you specific protections when you buy from a funeral home, but they disappear when you get to the graveyard. Find out why, and how to watch your wallet at the graveside.
  • Final Rights has a chapter on the laws in each state, written in plain English. Find out how well (or how badly) you're protected from funeral fraud, and learn where your state needs to reform!

Every American who plans to die (that's you) needs to read this book. Final Rights belongs on the bookshelf of every hospice worker, nurse, social worker, and elder-law attorney. Curious? Read the first chapter, Circling the Hearses, free.

Visit our bookstore to order Final Rights. Every copy you buy directly from FCA will put dollars behind our mission to protect the public from exploitation and funeral fraud. You can also buy your state's chapter for instant download

Also, see our links to organizations in several states that specialize in helping you navigate a home funeral.

Attachments:
Download this file (caringupdates.pdf)caringupdates.pdf[Caring for the Dead Updates]159 Kbm/j/Y
Last Updated ( Monday, 20 June 2011 13:07 )  
Comments (13)
1 Monday, 07 April 2008 13:49
Have just come from the Medical Examiner's office. She had NO information on regs for home care for the dead and/or the paperwork required to transport a body.

Can anyone help ? I have the Lisa Carlson's book "Caring for the Dead".....but wonder if the regs have changed. My husband and I have planned home body care/wakes/funerals.....now I'm in a bit of a panic as to whether it's legal . Have been advised that the State Medical Examiner 'sets the rules' and is not 'user friendly' so would like some info before I approach her office.

Thanks...
2 Monday, 07 April 2008 13:50
In my frustration, I failed to mention that I live in IOWA and so and looking for info for that state.
3 Monday, 07 April 2008 13:53
Hi there,

We can help, but it's best to give us a call. Call me toll free at 800-765-0107. Please come prepared with your questions. Also, it's likely the ME just needs to be educated on the fact that it is legal. You can also email me at josh@funerals.org. If you do, please make sure you tell me your name and where I can call you back if need be.


- Josh Slocum, FCA Exec. Director
4 Saturday, 12 April 2008 11:15
There's a great list serve group that can help you with this Beth Knox is the leader when I get home I'll send you the information on how to get hooked up with this group. They are home funeral providers across the usa that discuss exactly this type issue.
More later! Anna Copley www.TheFuneralSite.com
P.S. I grew up in Des Moines and graduated from U of I (go hawks!)
5 Thursday, 08 May 2008 17:54
Thank you for all your beautiful work. I just read the book. My father is dieing. We want to have a wake. I am learning so much from your work and expeience.

Keep up the great work.

Love and Peace

Anna Marie Kirkpatrick
6 Thursday, 15 May 2008 17:09
thank you i am amazed at the information heirin but surprised at how different the laws are from stste to stae currntly a student at gupton jones college of funeral services norman
7 Tuesday, 08 July 2008 14:16
I live in rural Northern California and we have a local Gold Rush era cemetery which the locals always take care of their own burials. It has been legal for quite some time in Califiornia to transport the dead and its very common to have a pickup truck deliver the body to be buried here in Fair Play.

My father is about to die and we'll need to transport his body from the Jersey Shore up state two hours to a funeral home and want to do it ourselves. Does New Jersey law allow next of kin that privelege and what paperwork would be necessary?
8 Wednesday, 09 July 2008 08:51
Laurie Powsner
Hi Brian,

Good idea. It is more personal and you will save a bundle of money.

In Lisa's book, she states that the mortuary board has no authority over private citizens, only licensees. I've spoken with them and they do not agree, but we suspect that they have little if any actual enforcement or punitive power if you're not a licensed funeral home, so our general advice is don't worry about it.

What you are supposed to do is go to the town clerk where your dad dies and pick up a removal or transit permit (a couple of dollars), but in some areas, the clerk has never issued one to anyone other than a funeral director and might or might not cope with your request calmly.

The actual statutes says: "No person, without securing a proper death certificate and a burial or removal permit, shall: a. Remove a dead body from this State; or b. Bury or make other final disposition of such body in this State."

Since you are not removing the body from the state and you will not be burying the body yourself, you could just skip this. But, we encourage people to give it a try and see if the clerk cooperates as s/he should. You can always say "Oh OK, thanks anyway" and walk away (and transport your dad without the permit).

We're even more excited to find people willing to make a stink with an uncooperative town clerk, but you'd have to be prepared for a delay while you secure an attorney, notify the press, etc.

As for getting the death certificate, it might depend some on where he dies. If he dies at home on hospice, you shouldn't have a problem. While most of NJ has gone to electronic registration, the MD can drop it to paper when needed. If he dies in a hospital, your biggest problem will probably be getting them to release the body to you! The northern NJ funeral home can do the electronic registration for you as well (call in advance to confirm).

Once you get up north, you can arrange to have the funeral director meet you at the cemetery for a graveside service if you want to avoid the home, embalming, etc. Also remember that you can purchase a casket online at a deep discount.

Please call if you run into problems.

Laurie Powsner
Funeral Consumers Alliance of Princeton
609-924-3320
9 Wednesday, 09 July 2008 08:53
Laurie Powsner
Whoops. I forgot to mention that you need to bring the death certificate to the town clerk to get the transit permit.
10 Saturday, 20 September 2008 20:45
I am a chaplain in a hospital and chaplains are charged with releasing the body of the deceased. We have always released the body to a funeral home, but recently a family member requested to take the body. We were unprepared for this and would like to know what rules govern this in Georgia. How do we advise a family? Do they need any documentation. To what extent are we responsible for what happens with the body after the release?

Also, I would personally like to know if a person's body can be transported from here to Michigan without embalming. Is there a prescribed container for a transport by air or ground? How would it be aranged?
11 Monday, 22 September 2008 13:29
Hi Eileen,

I hope you check back here for the answer, and that you realize you didn't send an email, but left a comment. Without your email address, I can't write directly to you.

You wrote:

I am a chaplain in a hospital and chaplains are charged with releasing the body of the deceased. We have always released the body to a funeral home, but recently a family member requested to take the body. We were unprepared for this and would like to know what rules govern this in Georgia. How do we advise a family? Do they need any documentation. To what extent are we responsible for what happens with the body after the release?

REPLY: Many of us have forgotten that familiy-directed funerals were once the norm in America. Many mistakenly believe they're illegal. While it varies from state to state, families should have the same basic paperwork you require from a funeral director. Here's how it works in Georgia:

1. The family must get the doctor's signature on the death certificate, then complete the remaining info. The family must file this within 72 hours of the death.

2. Under GA law, a doctor or coroner can allow a body to be removed without requiring additional paperwork. Of course, you should ask the family to sign acknowledgment that they took custody of the body, just as you would require for a funeral home.

3. You're not responsible at all after the family takes the body. How could you be? Are you responsible for what a funeral home does with the body? Of course not. Remember, this deceased is the family's own kin, just as much as their living relatives are when you release a patient to return home.



Also, I would personally like to know if a person's body can be transported from here to Michigan without embalming. Is there a prescribed container for a transport by air or ground? How would it be aranged?


REPLY: I do not believe Michigan requires embalming for out of state transport, or that Georgia requires it to receive a body. Did somebody make this claim to you? Whenever someone says a law requires or prohibits something, insist that they show you the law. Usually, it doesn't exist.

No, there's no "prescribed container," if you mean "required by law." In an automobile, any casket-shaped container will do. When bodies are shipped by plane, they're usually in what's called an "air tray." These may or may not contain a casket.

I hope this helps.


Josh Slocum
Exec. Director, FCA
12 Monday, 22 September 2008 13:49
a 16 year old boy suffered massive facial and head trama in a car wreck. boy was identified at scene of accident his father and by coronor. funeral director refused other family members from viewing him at funeral home. Is THIS LEGAL?
13 Monday, 22 September 2008 14:44
Hi Lisa,

No, funeral directors may not tell family members they can't view a body, though they can advise against it if the body is so badly damaged it may be inadvisable. But I don't know the whole situation here. For example, was this to be a public viewing? Private?

FCA events

  • FCA Executive Director Josh Slocum will be a guest on wrcr.com's live show 10:10 a.m. Eastern, July 24. Go here to stream.

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