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Morbid Anatomy on display in Brooklyn

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You can get your full of the curious and the macabre at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn. Founder Joanna Ebenstein notes in a Daily Beast interview:

 “You realize on a visceral level that this [having dead bodies in the parlor] is not a one-off thing, this is an activity people used to do all the time that now seems bizarre to us,” she says. “And it was only 100 years ago, so what has changed about us as a culture that this is unacceptable?”

Read the full story here.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 23 July 2014 16:24 )
 

Pennsylvania funeral directors appeal to US Supreme Court

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A press release from the Institute for Justice. The case is brought by funeral directors in Pennsylvania who challenged the state's outdated laws restricting funeral home ownership, barring the serving of food in funeral homes, and other rules that have kept out competition while protecting "legacy" funeral homes. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 16, 2014
CONTACT: Shira Rawlinson, (703) 682-9320 ext. 229
 
Does the U.S. Constitution Require Courts to Enforce Obsolete Laws that Lack Any Justification Today?
 
Institute for Justice asks U.S. Supreme Court to hear ‘changed circumstances’ case
 
Arlington, Va.—Today, the Institute for Justice and a group of Pennsylvania funeral directors asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Heffner v. Murphy, a case with implications for every American. The question presented to the High Court is simple: When the government takes away your liberty today, does it need reasons that are valid today or is it enough that the law was valid when passed long ago, no matter how much the facts of the world may have changed?
 
In Heffner, a fed-up coalition of Pennsylvania funeral entrepreneurs sued the state to overturn obsolete laws dating to the early 1950s that prevent them from providing the best service and lowest prices to their customers. The federal trial court ruled that it was no longer constitutional for Pennsylvania to enforce these archaic laws due to indisputable advances in how the funeral industry now works. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the absence of a contemporary justification for a law was not “a constitutional flaw.” Instead, the appellate court ruled that all that matters is whether the law was “rational” when passed in 1952.
 
Heffner v. Murphy is important to every American because the constitutional rule at issue—called “rational-basis review”—determines the constitutionality of the overwhelming majority of laws, from occupational licensing to criminal statutes to environmental law to zoning and just about everything in between. Rational-basis review requires the government to have, at minimum, a rational reason for depriving someone of liberty.
 
Last Updated ( Monday, 21 July 2014 12:56 ) Read more...
 

Is Nantucket a bellwether for the funeral industry?

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The New York Times ran a fascinating story July 13 about the closure of Nantucket Island's only funeral home. This is causing residents logistical problems, as bodies have to be shipped off the island by ferry to a mainland funeral home.

But on Feb. 14, the day of Ms. Davis’s funeral, New England was digging out from a huge snowstorm and bracing for the next. Foul weather forced the cancellation of the ferry that was to bring Ms. Davis home. Her body spent almost a month on the mainland at the funeral home, but suspended in what her daughter called a heartbreaking limbo.

What's interesting to us, though, is how the story highlights two foundational problems in the American funeral industry:

1. The vast oversupply of funeral home relative to the population
2. Anti-competitive hearse-circling from the organized funeral industry

Most people don't realize that the US has almost twice as many funeral homes as it would need to adequately serve the population while providing a good living for the funeral home and staff. In some states there are four to five times as many as needed.

Last Updated ( Monday, 21 July 2014 12:56 ) Read more...
 

FCA Swag!

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Our popular and stylishly grim coffee mug is yours for $15, and sales support our work!mug web readymug web ready

 

We ask the FTC to rule on misleading language

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We sent the following to Funeral Rule Coordinator Craig Tregillus at the Federal Trade Commission. 

June 30, 2014
Craig Tregillus
Funeral Rule Coordinator
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20580

Dear Mr. Tregillus,

This is a request for an advisory opinion on two issues related to the Funeral Rule:

1. The use of the phrase, “cremation if relevant” on General Price Lists (GPLs). This phrase is used in Complying With the Funeral Rule and has unintentionally confused funeral providers and consumers. Funeral Consumers Alliance contends it should be removed. We request that the FTC formally clarify that the phrase should not appear on General Price Lists.

2. The use of the phrase, “except in certain special cases,” which occurs in the embalming disclosure mandated by the Funeral Rule. The full disclosure reads,

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 15 July 2014 14:32 ) Read more...
 
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