Last Updated ( Thursday, 26 March 2009 17:04 )
3/25/2009 UPDATE - HB 265 has been signed into law by the Utah governor!
2/15/2009 - Joyce Mitchell called us crying with happiness today; after tireless organizing, lobbying, and testifying, this one-woman powerhouse got a bill passed in the Utah House to restore citizens' rights to care for their own dead.
"I can't believe it," Mitchell said by cell-phone after the vote, laughing and sniffling at the same time. "If it weren't for [the national FCA], the FCA Biennial Conference last year, and the FCA email discussion list, I couldn't have done. You all kept up my enthusiasm and broke me out of my apathy."
Actually, Mitchell, the President of the FCA of Utah, is the real heroine. Outraged at a 2006 law that forced Utah citizens to hire funeral homes if they wanted a completed death certificate and custody of the body, Mitchell rounded up families and home funeral activists to testify to the Utah House. David Robles and his wife, Marcia Robles-Racehorse, consumer advocates from the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe in Idaho, were particularly helpful, as were Native American leaders who supported HB 265 . The bill passed the House overwhelmingly, and Mitchell has found a Senate supporter to shepherd the bill through the senate.
Mitchell's success is a testament to what "ordinary" citizens can do when they remember that the government serves the people, not the other way around. Mitchell put up a website dedicated to the issue , gathered families who'd been affected by the 2006 law, and gave Powerpoint presentations on the issue to legislative committees.
Hats off to all of you who went to the mat on this important issue. Your work has restored a fundamental freedom for all Utah families. Special thanks to Rep. Brad Daw, who understood the injustice of depriving families of control over their death rituals, and who was willing to stand up for the right thing.
2/3/2009 - The Montana Legislature has introduced a bill clarifying who has the right to make decisions about funeral arrangements. The trouble is, the bill only lets a citizen make his wishes legally binding through a prepaid funeral contract! Thirty-nine other states have personal preference and designated agent laws
that allow people to put their wishes in writing, and appoint someone to carry them out. Montana should follow suit, instead of relying on the "next-of-kin" devolution; a recipe for disaster in the family courts if relatives can't agree. Click here to read HB 386
. FCA will send a letter of testimony to the House Business and Labor Committee before its February 9, 2009 meeting.
Last Updated ( Friday, 30 January 2009 21:43 )
1/30/2009 - Joshua Slocum, FCA Executive Director
Caring for one's own dead isn't something the majority of families do. Most of us are so distant from the realities of death, we've forgotten that our great grandparents regularly waked the body at home, and an undertaker was a helper, not a funeral director. But in my six years as the executive director of FCA, there's been a surprising resurgence of interest in private, family-directed funerals. Formerly confined to a few hippies (I mean that affectionately) in Northern California, or in the pages of Lisa Carlson's Caring for the Dead, Your Final Act of Love, home funerals are finding new life in volunteer groups and in the mainstream media. In 2004, Public Television aired an hour-long documentary on the topic.
But families in seven states (CT, IN, LA, MI, NE, NY, UT) face legal obstacles. Astonishingly, those states have seen fit to require families to engage a funeral home for everything from filing the death certificate, to transporting the casket, to getting the body released from the hospital. Whether the family wants to hire a funeral director or not, whether they can afford to pay one or not. Click READ MORE for the rest of the story. . .
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 21 January 2009 23:27 )
1/21/2009 - Holly Stevens, a co-founder of the newest FCA chapter, The Funeral Consumers Alliance of the Piedmont in North Carolina, has assembled an easy to read guide to funeral law for consumers in her state. Most people aren't even aware there is such a beast as "funeral law." If they are, they usually think, "I don't need to worry about that." Wrong. Grieving families who don't know their legal rights are vulnerable to sales pressure, manipulation, and overspending when it comes time to plan a funeral. Stevens knows this well, and has done an excellent job putting arcane legalese into plain language anyone can understand.
Did you know that in North Carolina:
1. Families can act as their own funeral directors - they don't have to hire a funeral home and they can complete all the paperwork themselves?
2. That there's no state fund to pay for funerals for those who die poor?
3. That it's almost impossible to get a refund after 30 days (even if you move or change your mind) when you buy graves and markers ahead of time?
Probably not, but these are things every savvy funeral consumer should know. Stevens has kindly given us permission to excerpt the introduction and Q & A from her book, Care of the Dead: North Carolina Statutes. This is a must-read for any North Carolina citizen. It's also a great model for other Funeral Consumers Alliance affiliates to adopt. If you're on the board of an FCA group and you can't answer these questions about your own state's laws, now's the time to assemble a helpful guide for your members. We're sure Holly Stevens would be pleased if you're inspired by her work. Click READ MORE for the excerpt. . .