COURT TOSSES FUNERAL DIRECTOR LAWSUIT; UPHOLDS FREE SPEECH FOR CONSUMER ADVOCATES
The US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan threw out prominent funeral director Thomas Lynch’s libel and defamation suit against Funeral Consumers Alliance and two other defendants. On July 31, Judge Robert H. Cleland granted summary judgment for the defendants, ruling that Lynch had no case for libel or defamation.
“We’re delighted the court has upheld FCA’s right to free speech,” said Joshua Slocum, Executive Director. “The Constitution protects Americans’ right to engage in vigorous public debate, and that includes criticizing the words and deeds of public figures like Mr. Lynch. Simply because the target of that criticism does not enjoy it does not make such critique illegal. FCA will continue commenting on matters of importance to funeral consumers, and that commentary may take the form of critiquing the writing or statements of prominent funeral directors. We expect this ruling will discourage any disgruntled funeral industry figures from attempting in the future to intimidate and silence consumer organizations through legal bullying.”
I posted my commentary on NFDA's Green Burial Idemnification form to a funeral director's email discussion list. I wanted to know what the members thought of the issue. The split in the responses has been fascinating. Several funeral directors offered thoughtful, considered, and pro-consumer positions. This alone made the post worth it. Despite what some undertakers think, I actually like meeting thoughtful industry people to put on my electronic Rolodex. If I didn't have a group of trustworthy, honest people in the business to consult with and learn from, I couldn't do my job effectively.
But whoah, nelly, did the conversation take a wrong turn. I started a brief discussion about the practice of mandating that customers do an "identification viewing" of a dead body, and a funeral director who calls herself "Morticia" went apoplectic. I'm still wondering what I said that got her formaldehyde boiling over. See if you can figure it out. I've pasted the good, the bad, and the ugly below. Comments welcome and encouraged. . ..
- Posted by Josh Slocum, Executive Director, Funeral Consumers Alliance
I was delighted to see the latest issue of your magazine, The Director, staring at me with its inviting cover. "The Growth of Green" leaped out. NFDA is getting behind green funeral options? Great! FCA hears from so many consumers who want an ecologically friendly send-off, and the more mainstream funeral businesses that get on board, the easier it will be for us to help them.
As usual, Chris Raymond's editorial was spot-on:
Whether you're aware of it or not, presently strive to offer green options or just hope the whole thing will go away, I urge you not to dismiss growing consumer consciousness of the burden of their "ecological footprint" will have on future generations as a mere fad . . . .jump on the green bandwagon by making sure your firm offers a variety of green products/services at a range of prices and advertise this fact to your community.
Click "read more" for our dissection of the unfounded nonsense NFDA has published about green burial. . .
FCA is on the air! Listen to this hour-long interview with FCA Executive Director Joshua Slocum on Utah's KRCL Radio. Slocum joins casket-maker and consumer activist Dave Robles from Bannock Pride, and FCA of Utah President Joyce Mitchell to discuss consumer rights, funeral industry scams, and the pernicious influence of the funeral industry lobby.
TO LISTEN: Just click the button on the player, and it will stream to your speakers.
TO DOWNLOAD TO YOUR MP3 PLAYER OR COMPUTER: Right-click this link and choose "save as."
Journalist and longtime hospice volunteer Judy Bachrach has another column for us in her signature, no-nonsense style. Got a question about dealing with dying, or what to do and not to do with the terminally ill? Visit her site The Checkout Line and click "Ask Judy."
FIVE HOSPICE MYTHS
Every time I tell people I volunteer at a hospice, the reaction is the same. Isn't it awfully depressing for you?
The answer is no - I'm not, after all, the person who's actually dying. If I were the person dying then, yes, probably I would be pretty unhappy about the situation, although not necessarily depressed. Hospice care can treat depression extremely effectively - in fact, since no one seems capable just yet of curing death, that's a lot of what hospices do: alleviating the many unpleasant side-effects of dying.