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Oregon Exempts Self from First Amendment

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4/20/2009 - Reads like a headline from The Onion, doesn't it? Senate Bill 796, a bill that purports to better regulate the changing funeral industry, contains a remarkable provision:

“An individual may not practice as a death care consultant unless the individual is licensed as a death care consultant under section 4 of this 2009 Act. Regardless of any title used by the individual, an individual practices as a death care consultant if the individual offers, for payment, consultations or workshops to individuals or groups regarding funeral or final disposition services.”

Plain English ™ Translation - Consumer advocates, home funeral guides, or anyone else has to pass a test and get a license from the state before charging even a dollar to give a workshop on anything to do with funerals or funeral planning. And what creeping menace will this protect the funeral-buying public from? Private citizens (mostly women, some known as death midwives, others as home funeral guides or consultants) who teach people practical, common-sense ways to take on the final care of a dead relative in the home, by the family, mortuary-free. Yes, it's perfectly legal to do so, though we suspect there are some in the commercial funeral business that dearly wish it weren't.

The bill was introduced by Oregon Senator Vicki Walker. Here's FCA's letter opposing the unconstitutional provisions of SB 796. If you care about free speech and the right to free choice in funerals, contact your Oregon legislator. And if you appreciate what FCA does as the only nonprofit consumer watchdog on these issues, please consider supporting us. Without your donations, we wouldn't be here.

6/7/2009 UPDATE - We've been told by several people who've attended committee meetings in the Oregon House (yep, the bill made it through the Senate, astonishingly) that Senator Walker has amended it to read:

“An individual may not practice as a death care consultant unless the individual is licensed as a death care consultant under section 4 of this 2009 Act. Regardless of any title used by the individual, an individual practices as a death care consultant if the individual offers, for payment, consultations regarding funeral or final disposition services.”

We can't confirm this, since neither Senator Walker, nor more than a dozen of her colleagues have bothered to respond to our letters and emails. The amendment solves nothing, of course - it merely makes the wording vaguer, and thus more alarming. And it will not stave off likely legal challenges on First Amendment grounds.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 03 September 2009 15:24 )

One in Four Funeral Homes Breaking the Law - FTC

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3/30/2009 - The Federal Trade Commission issued a press release about its 2008 "sweeps," undercover shopping trips to see if mortuaries are complying with the Funeral Rule. The Rule, in place since 1984, requires funeral homes to give consumers printed, itemized price lists and disclosures at the very beginning of any funeral arrangments discussion. Sounds pretty simple, right? So then why did 26 of the 104 funeral homes secret-shopped last year not do it?

Last Updated ( Thursday, 09 July 2009 16:23 ) Read more...

Where Death Comes Cheap - Newsweek Interviews FCA

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Check out the March 16, 2009 Newsweek Magazine story on families looking for a dignified send-off that won't bury them in debt. Writer Matthew Phillips does a great job laying-out simpler, cheaper ways to get to the great beyond.

Last Updated ( Friday, 01 May 2009 13:32 ) Read more...

Home Funeral Services in Colorado in Legislative Question

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4/3/2009 - Boulder Weekly ran a feature story on the bill, highlighting the sponsor's consultation with industry - but not consumer groups - in drafting this bill. FCA did have a productive conversation with the executive director of the Colorado Funeral Director's Association, which resulted in many areas of agreement on possible amendments (though not total agreement). Here's the letter we sent to Rep. Nancy Todd with suggested amendments. She appears to be refusing to communicate with us; why a lawmaker would ignore pleas from a consumer group while drafting "consumer protection" legislation with the aid of a business lobbying group is a mystery.


3/5/09 --- An anti-consumer bill is working its way through the Colorado legislature, and FCA is fighting back with the help of its Colorado chapter, the Funeral Consumer Society of Colorado. HB 1202 purports to better protect consumers by requiring regulation and standards for funeral businesses, but the bill's sloppy language would outlaw private, family-directed funerals and stifle competition that could bring lower-cost funerals and cremations to Colorado families. The bill looks to be the handiwork of the Colorado Funeral Directors Association, and it has all the hallmarks of a lobbying group using lawmakers to circle the hearses to protect funeral industry profits.

Click here to read FCA's critique of the bill.

FCA Executive Director Joshua Slocum will discuss the bill on KGNU Community Radio on March 5, 2009. Click here to stream the live broadcast at 8:00 a.m. Mountain Time.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 19 November 2009 16:12 )

The Surprising Satisfaction of a Home Funeral

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Author Max Alexander has written a moving account of the family-directed funeral of his father-in-law, contrasting it with the conventional and costly mortuary affair for his own father. Here's a sampling from the March, 2009 article in Smithsonian Magazine:

One was buried, one was cremated. One was embalmed, one wasn't. One had a typical American funeral-home cotillion; one was laid out at home in a homemade coffin. I could tell you that sorting out the details of these two dead fathers taught me a lot about life, which is true. But what I really want to share is that dead bodies are perfectly OK to be around, for a while.

I suppose people whose loved ones are missing in action or lost at sea might envy the rest of us, for whom death typically leaves a corpse, or in the polite language of funeral directors, "the remains." Yet for all our desire to possess this tangible evidence of a life once lived, we've become oddly squeamish about our dead. We pay an average of $6,500 for a funeral, not including cemetery costs, in part so we don't have to deal with the physical reality of death. That's 13 percent of the median American family's annual income.


Last Updated ( Friday, 01 May 2009 13:31 )

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