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FCA recognizes that the dissemination of individual experiences, the reporting of public information, and linking to other sites can help further our mission of educating the public on their funeral rights and options. However, FCA's limited resources and the nature of the Internet make it impossible to verify the content of personal experiences that are supplied by others or to verify the content of linked sites. FCA accepts no responsibility for these. Comments on the contents of personal reports and linked websites should be directed to the author(s).

Virginia Passes Refrigeration Law

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6/18/2010 — In response to the discovery of corpses left out of refrigeration to rot and leak in a back room of National Funeral Home in Falls Church (owned by megaconglomerate SCI), the Virginia Legislature passed a law requiring funeral homes to refrigerate or embalm bodies if more than 48 hours passes after death and before disposition. Importantly, the law bars funeral homes from embalming without the express permission of the family. This means funeral homes will have to offer refrigeration as standard practice, and won't be able to force families to "choose" embalming in order to comply with the 48-hour rule (which unfortunately occurs in many states).

Here's how the Washington Post described the scene at National Funeral Home back in 2009:

During his time there, Napper [a former embalmer turned whistleblower] said, as many as 200 corpses were left on makeshift gurneys in the garage, in hallways and in a back room, unrefrigerated and leaking fluids onto the floor. Some were stored on cardboard boxes or were balanced on biohazard containers. At least half a dozen veterans destined for the hallowed ground at Arlington National Cemetery were left in their coffins on a garage rack, Napper said.

- hat tip to Brian Ditzler of the FCA of Maryland and Environs for alerting us to the new law.



Last Updated ( Thursday, 29 July 2010 00:37 )

Catholic Cemeteries Protest Regulation, Delay Bill to Protect Cemetery Consumers

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4/14/2010— An alarmist letter from the Catholic Cemeteries Conference (CCC, a lobbying association) delayed the mark-up of HR3655, the Bereaved Consumers Bill of Rights Act of 2009. Sponsor Bobby Rush pulled the bill from markup in the House Energy and Commerce Committee May 5 after the CCC sent a letter to lawmakers full of  exaggerated and just plain false claims. HR3655 would extend the Federal Trade Commission's Funeral Rule to cemeteries, crematories, and third-party merchandise sellers. Consumers would have the right to printed, itemized price lists, freedom of choice in purchase, and accurate information. The bill will likely be resubmitted to the Committee after Rep. Rush has time to consider the situation.

In a bid to persuade lawmakers to exempt religious cemeteries from  minimal requirements for transparency, the CCC claimed the bill would interfere with the religious freedoms of Catholic cemeteries through the "federalization of local religious operations," and by allowing the government to "polic[e] what religious organizations say to their members.” Objecting to the idea that Catholics who buy burials at church cemeteries are "consumers"—and ignoring the fact that parishioners usually pay thousands of dollars for the privilege—the Conference claimed Catholic cemeteries were a "ministry," and therefore off-limits to regulators.

Crying government interference with religious practice is fightin' words in the United States. Real instances of government meddling  in religious practices should alarm anyone, but the CCC is crying wolf. Nothing in HR3655 would interfere in any way with the religious burial rites or practices of any faith tradition. It would merely:

  • Require all cemeteries to give grieving families printed price lists before they buy
  • Require all cemeteries to give families copies of cemetery rules and regulations on permissible monuments, maintenance, etc.
  • Give all cemetery consumers the right to buy only the merchandise they desire, and allow them to buy cemetery goods from third party vendors
  • Prohibit cemeteries from lying about legal requirements (claiming, for example, that grave vaults are required by law)
How would this interfere with any religious ritual? What religion holds an an article of faith that members who pay for church-run cemetery services should be denied price and rule information? None, of course, and we can't imagine why any religiously operated cemetery would object to rules that require ethical, honest, transparent treatment of vulnerable consumers during a difficult and costly transaction.

Funeral Consumers Alliance pushed back with a letter correcting the misinformation and fear-mongering. We noted:

  • The bill imposes next-to-no costs, just the price of a few sheets of paper and the time it takes to alert staff of consumer rights
  • The nation's 21,000 funeral homes have been subject to these same rules for 26 years and no harm has come to the mortuary business
  • Families who choose burial in religious cemeteries deserve the same basic consumer protections as all other families


Last Updated ( Thursday, 29 July 2010 00:36 )

NPS Preneed Update

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UPDATE 11/25/2010--- US Attorney's Office Indicts NPS Officials on 50 Counts

Six officials with NPS - including members of the Cassity family- have been indicted on charges of fraud that allegedly cost funeral consumers and funeral homes up to $600 million. Here's the press release from the FBI:

Last Updated ( Monday, 24 June 2013 13:26 ) Read more...

FTC to Funeral Homes: No You May Not. . .

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4/20/2010— Twenty-six years after the Funeral Rule became effective, and 16 years after the Federal Trade Commission barred funeral homes from slapping a "handling fee" on caskets consumers who buy from third-party retailers, those retailers are still running into problems. Because some funeral homes never learn, FTC staff have to continually churn out advisory opinion letters laying down the law.

Last Updated ( Friday, 16 July 2010 17:37 ) Read more...

Forest Hill Cemetery Trial Date Set

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4/5/2010 — The man accused of stealing more than $20 million from the trust funds at Memphis' Forest Hill Cemetery is finally scheduled to stand trial. Clayton Smart shocked 13,000 families when he announced in 2006 he wouldn't honor their prepaid funeral and burial arrangements. The Commercial Appeal reports Smart and two other men involved in the business are set to stand trial today.



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