News Archive

Cemetery Owners Face Multiple Felony Charges

By Nastassia Strackbein
Husband and wife cemetery owners, Ted and Arminda Martin, owners of Grandview Memorial Park in Ravenna, OH and Fairview Memorial Park in Delaware, OH, face a grand jury on August 8, 2017. The Record-Courier newspaper in Ohio reported that the Martin’s are charged with, “Crimes related to the operation of the cemetery, including multiple counts of tampering with records, failure to establish a cemetery trust fund, failure to deposit sales proceeds into a cemetery trust, failure to appoint cemetery trustees, failure to file annual reports and affidavits and misdemeanor charges of failure to register a cemetery”. Read more

The post Cemetery Owners Face Multiple Felony Charges appeared first on Funeral Consumers Alliance.

A brief but shining life: Baby’s ‘summer of being’ celebrated with joy and dragonflies

By Laurel Droz
These days I notice dragonflies.
They flit softly, urgently through blue sumer skies, arriving unexpectedly and alighting someplace warm. Wings stretch toward the June sun and refract light like stained glass on God’s smallest church window. Read more

The post A brief but shining life: Baby’s ‘summer of being’ celebrated with joy and dragonflies appeared first on Funeral Consumers Alliance.

Heritage Cremation Provider has been ordered to “Cease and Desist” in the State of Colorado

By Nastassia Strackbein
The state of Colorado has shut down Heritage Cremation Provider for misleading consumers and acting as a middle-man to generate business for funeral homes. But Heritage Cremation’s website implied to consumers that the business is locally owned and services were provided by the consumer’s “friends and neighbors. Read more

The post Heritage Cremation Provider has been ordered to “Cease and Desist” in the State of Colorado appeared first on Funeral Consumers Alliance.

Uniquely Vulnerable

By John Lantz
At the time of “at need” funeral planning, we often refer to the funeral consumers as “uniquely vulnerable.” There are several reasons why those shopping for a funeral are vulnerable in a way they are not in any other retail transaction. Read more

The post Uniquely Vulnerable appeared first on Funeral Consumers Alliance.

What’s your metaphor for death?

By Karen Smith, Ph.D.
“What we do to the earth we do to ourselves” is an adage many people have come to believe. How we connect to nature matters and can have benefits for our health, according to New York Times journalist David Suziki.

Do you believe your living and dying are part of a larger natural procss in which we all play a role? Read more

The post What’s your metaphor for death? appeared first on Funeral Consumers Alliance.

He championed racial parity in the Detroit funeral industry

We thought you might “Digg” this historical excursion, courtesy writer and historian, Amy Elliott Bragg. While this true story is set in Detroit, racially discriminatory practices in the funeral industry that continued well into the 1960s, were widespread. Read more

The post He championed racial parity in the Detroit funeral industry appeared first on Funeral Consumers Alliance.

Funeral Consumers Alliance And Consumer Federation of America’s Joint Press Release

Death With Dignity?
Nation’s Largest Funeral Home Company Charges High Prices and Refuses to Disclose These Prices On Their Websites
Read FCA’s full report on how SCI-owned corporate funeral homes charge up to 72 percent higher prices than independently owned funeral homes. Read more

The post Funeral Consumers Alliance And Consumer Federation of America’s Joint Press Release appeared first on Funeral Consumers Alliance.

NPR’s Marketplace talks to FCA on Green Burials

American Public Media’s “Marketplace” on natural burials with a cautionary note from FCA: Beware of attempts to get you to pay a premium for a green burial—you shouldn’t have to pay a boutique price for a burial that simpler and uses less product.

Art as grief therapy

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Goodbye Michael, Goodbye Old Friend – Antonia Rolls – http://www.antoniarolls.co.uk/my-work.html


Death can be found in the news on any day, but the following links all follow recent news regarding art relating to personal struggles with death and grief. 

At Penn State University, the work of Jennifer Rodgers is on display. Rodgers paintings of abstract shapes and maps detail her father’s illness and death in a hospital. Her story is featured on NPR.

In the UK, artist and death doula Antonia Rolls will exhibit a series of paintings titled “A Graceful Death”. Originally inspired by her husband’s death from cancer, Rolls’ paintings depict people living with a life-threatening illness and in the days and moments approaching death. The UK’s KentOnline features info about her upcoming exhibit. Learn more about her work on her website.

In Indonesia, paintings by Myuran Sukumaran have caught the eye of human rights activists opposed to the death penalty. Having learned to paint while in prison, his self portraits illustrate grief, anger and protest of his death sentence by firing squad, for a drug smuggling offense. Sukumaran was executed on April 29, 2015. Read more at the Guardian.

Funeral home complaints: reasonable or unreasonable?

Jezebel recently posted some amusing “Grim Yelp Reviews” of funeral homes.

Here at FCA we regularly field complaints about funeral homes from consumers around the country. Most of these complaints are legitimate. A charge for something you did not receive, for example, or a misrepresentation of the law, is good reason to file a complaint. But we do hear from plenty of people who might be unfairly blaming the funeral home for something that is out of their control. 

In defense of liquid cremation

Sarah Zhang enlightens folks to the mysteries surrounding alkaline hydrolysis aka liquid cremation or green cremation , on Gizmodo.

 

“The biggest misunderstanding is that they think the whole body goes down the drain,” Regnier says. Even with that misunderstanding out of the way, though, it’s easy to see why people might be squeamish about being “poured down the pipe.” But that might just show our ignorance about how dead bodies are usually treated. Blood and body liquids are poured down the drain when coroners do embalming — and burned particles pouring out through the smokestacks in cremation.

 

At the Mayo Clinic, which has used alkaline hydrolysis as a method of disposition after body donation for years, 100% of the families who have been offered green cremation as an option of disposition have accepted. It’s a pity it continues to be a struggle to make it available to everyone. It is currently legal in only 8 states and a bill that would make it legal in Ohio is under consideration.

WOSU.org: Alternative Cremation Method Back In State Legislature

Lawmakers in Ohio are considering a bill to make alkaline hydrolosis legal in the state. Read up at WOSU Public Media.

New from the FTC-en Espanol

The Federal Trade Commission has revised two extremely helpful documents for funeral consumers. Even better, they’re available in Spanish, too. Check out El último adiós and Compra de servicios fúnebresFCA Affiliates—Note that you can order paper versions of these in bulk, free, from the FTC. You can also (and should) host these new pamphlets directly on your site. 

FTC Banner

 

The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, has revised two brochures to help consumers make funeral choices, either in advance or at a time of need.

Paying Final Respects summarizes consumer rights under the FTC’s Funeral Rule, which helps to ensure that people get information so they can compare prices among funeral homes. For example, consumers have a right to buy only the funeral goods (such as caskets) and services (such as embalming) they want, and to get a written, itemized price list when they visit a funeral home.

Shopping for Funeral Services provides a detailed guide to various kinds of funeral goods and services, includes a pricing checklist, glossary, and contact information for national organizations.

You can order the publications at ftc.gov/bulkorder. The FTC has related information online in a series of articles that explain consumer rights, describe types of funeral products and services, and help shoppers compare providers. The FTC has compliance information for people in the funeral industry at business.ftc.gov/funerals.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

MEDIA CONTACT:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2180

More news from the FTC >>

Mom Adds Sandbox to Boy’s Grave So Older Son Can Play with His Brother

People Magazine
March 13, 2014

By Kelli Bender

A mother’s tribute to her deceased 5-day-old son – the addition of a sandbox to his grave, so her older boy could continue to play with his brother – has quickly gone viral on Facebook, with more than 220,000 users sharing her photo.

Ashlee Hammac, 24, says she originally planned to decorate the gravesite of her son Ryan with glass pebbles, but then realized her older son, Tucker, needed his own place to mourn.

“The more I thought about it, the more I wanted something my other son Tucker could be incorporated in,” Hammac told PEOPLE. “He always goes out there with me, and sits out there, and sings lullabies, and talks to him just like he was there. So I wanted it to be special for him too. His favorite thing right now is trucks.”

Read the full article at People Magazine

Who Has the Legal Right to Arrange a Funeral?

By Josh SlocumExecutive DirectorFuneral Consumers Alliance
Conflicts between family members and interested parties over who has the legal right and precedence to make funeral arrangements for a person are sadly common. Here are the basics.
Designated A…

Court reinstate’s Pennsylvania’s irrational, protectionist rules

The Third Circuit Court overturned a lower-court ruling, reinstating nearly all of Pennsylvania’s blatantly protectionist, anti-competitive laws restricting who can own funeral homes, what they can be called, whether they can serve food, and more. FCA filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of the plaintiffs, led by funeral director Ernie Heffner, when the case was before the district court. We agreed that many of the state laws at issue actually harmed consumers by preventing competition and innovation among funeral homes by propping up existing large, powerful funeral home operators. 

Read the ruling here.

The Institute for Justice issued the following press release. Note: We do not know what the next steps for the plaintiffs may be. 


Arlington, Va.—Today, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that invalidated 10 of Pennsylvania’s outdated, irrational and, in most cases, blatantly anti-competitive funeral regulations as unconstitutional. The case was brought by a group of Pennsylvania funeral directors and challenged several of Pennsylvania’s funeral laws, including a requirement that every funeral home have an embalming room. The Institute for Justice filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, arguing the regulations are ineffective and wasteful and that it is the judiciary’s job to engage in a meaningful evaluation of whether laws serve their purposes and to strike them down as unconstitutional when they do not.

“Today’s court decision completely ignored evidence that Pennsylvania’s funeral regulations do nothing to advance the public health and did little more than rubber stamp an irrational, protectionist law,” said IJ Attorney Dan Alban, who authored IJ’s amicus brief in the Heffner v. Murphy case. “As IJ’s brief argued, proper application of the rational-basis test demands that courts engage in a genuine, meaningful review of the evidence to determine whether a law actually accomplishes its purposes, which is something that the court did not do today.”

The lawsuit brought by several smaller Pennsylvania funeral directors challenged 10 of Pennsylvania’s funeral regulations as unconstitutional and anti-competitive. Included among the challenged regulations is Pennsylvania’s requirement that all funeral homes be outfitted with an embalming room, even if the embalming room is never used—a law that is nearly identical to the embalming-room requirement that IJ successfully challenged in Minnesota.

“The 3rd Circuit’s decision essentially makes it impossible for entrepreneurs to change useless laws that exist only to protect large funeral homes from competition,” Alban said. “As the court acknowledged, funeral directors tried to get the law changed in the legislature in 2008 and failed because large funeral homes opposed it. Nonetheless, the court refused to do its job and strike down the law, stating that entrepreneurs should just try again in the legislature, even though history shows their attempts would be futile.”

“Today’s ruling shows what happens when courts fail to subject regulations to meaningful scrutiny and reinforces the need for courts to reclaim their role as the branch of government responsible for checking the legislature,” said Clark Neily, IJ senior attorney and author of “Terms of Engagement,” a book arguing in favor of judicial engagement.
# # #

Court reinstate’s Pennsylvania’s irrational, protectionist rules

The Third Circuit Court overturned a lower-court ruling, reinstating nearly all of Pennsylvania’s blatantly protectionist, anti-competitive laws restricting who can own funeral homes, what they can be called, whether they can serve food, and more. FCA filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of the plaintiffs, led by funeral director Ernie Heffner, when the case was before the district court. We agreed that many of the state laws at issue actually harmed consumers by preventing competition and innovation among funeral homes by propping up existing large, powerful funeral home operators. 

Read the ruling here.

The Institute for Justice issued the following press release. Note: We do not know what the next steps for the plaintiffs may be. 


Arlington, Va.—Today, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that invalidated 10 of Pennsylvania’s outdated, irrational and, in most cases, blatantly anti-competitive funeral regulations as unconstitutional. The case was brought by a group of Pennsylvania funeral directors and challenged several of Pennsylvania’s funeral laws, including a requirement that every funeral home have an embalming room. The Institute for Justice filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, arguing the regulations are ineffective and wasteful and that it is the judiciary’s job to engage in a meaningful evaluation of whether laws serve their purposes and to strike them down as unconstitutional when they do not.

“Today’s court decision completely ignored evidence that Pennsylvania’s funeral regulations do nothing to advance the public health and did little more than rubber stamp an irrational, protectionist law,” said IJ Attorney Dan Alban, who authored IJ’s amicus brief in the Heffner v. Murphy case. “As IJ’s brief argued, proper application of the rational-basis test demands that courts engage in a genuine, meaningful review of the evidence to determine whether a law actually accomplishes its purposes, which is something that the court did not do today.”

The lawsuit brought by several smaller Pennsylvania funeral directors challenged 10 of Pennsylvania’s funeral regulations as unconstitutional and anti-competitive. Included among the challenged regulations is Pennsylvania’s requirement that all funeral homes be outfitted with an embalming room, even if the embalming room is never used—a law that is nearly identical to the embalming-room requirement that IJ successfully challenged in Minnesota.

“The 3rd Circuit’s decision essentially makes it impossible for entrepreneurs to change useless laws that exist only to protect large funeral homes from competition,” Alban said. “As the court acknowledged, funeral directors tried to get the law changed in the legislature in 2008 and failed because large funeral homes opposed it. Nonetheless, the court refused to do its job and strike down the law, stating that entrepreneurs should just try again in the legislature, even though history shows their attempts would be futile.”

“Today’s ruling shows what happens when courts fail to subject regulations to meaningful scrutiny and reinforces the need for courts to reclaim their role as the branch of government responsible for checking the legislature,” said Clark Neily, IJ senior attorney and author of “Terms of Engagement,” a book arguing in favor of judicial engagement.
# # #

Jewish funeral activists ask FTC to change course

A press release from the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington:


December 30, 2013

For the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington

Contacts:  Bob Hausman, 202-966-1545

David Balto, 202-577-5424

The Jewish Funeral Practices Committee (JFPC) of Greater Washington cautiously welcomes the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed agreement with Service Corporation International (SCI) requiring them to divest Edward Sagel Funeral Directions in Rockville as a condition of allowing SCI to acquire the nation’s second largest funeral services provider, Stewart Enterprises.  The FTC clearly accepted the Jewish community’s argument that there was a competitive problem in the DC/MD Jewish funeral home market.

Unfortunately, the FTC proposed decision to require the divestiture of Sagel is the wrong remedy. The Commission should have required the divestiture of Hines Rinaldi because it is an effective competitor and Sagel is not. Sagel is basically a modest storefront, does not have a chapel or facilities to handle bodies, and its market share has fallen from 25% to about 11% in the past three years.

SCI Buys Stewart Enterprises

To no one’s surprise, the Federal Trade Commission approved the merger of the two largest funeral home and cemetery chains, Service Corporation International (SCI, also known as “Dignity Memorial”) and Stewart Enterprises. While the feds are requiring SCI to sell of 91 locations (53 funeral homes and 38 cemeteries) in various parts of the country, the consolidation of the two biggest funeral chains under the banner of SCI is not good news for consumers. SCI has long been one of the biggest sources of consumer complaints—deceptive sales pitches, violating consumer protection rules on the right to choose funeral goods and services, and more. 

The funeral homes and cemeteries SCI and Stewart will be required to sell off:

Home Funerals-WBUR

Boston public radio’s WBUR has written the best piece on the emotional and practical realities of do it yourself home funeral care we’ve seen. You can also watch video of one young couple talk about caring for their infant daughter at home after death. Hats off to Rachel Zimmerman, the editor, and to the home funeral guides and families who took part!

Death remains a topic that many of us would rather avoid. And when it comes to the actual nuts and bolts of caring for the dead, most of us tend to think it’s best — and furthermore, required by law — to let professional funeral arrangers handle the arrangements.

Well, it turns out that in most states it’s perfectly legal to care for your own dead. And, with new momentum to shatter longstanding taboos and stop tip-toeing around death — from “death with dignity” measures sweeping the country to projects promoting kitchen table “conversations”about our deepest end-of-life wishes — a re-energized DIY death movement is emerging.

Find the whole story here

Before You Go!

Don’t take your last wishes to the grave. bigcoverwebversion

Our popular funeral planner is brand-new and expanded for 2013!

Before you go, they should know. . .

• Your funeral plans
• Where your important papers are
• Who should take care of your pets and how
• Who to call when the time comes
That you love them enough to get it together with. . .

Before I Go, You Should Know®, the comprehensive end-of-life planner. Featuring illustrations by Edward Gorey, BIG has more than 30 pages to record everything from your preference for burial or cremation to how to close down  your social media accounts and online life.

bigpetspageIncludes: 

Two free chapters from the book Final Rights with consumer funeral and burial rights and rules specific to your state. 
—A survivor’s checklist of important but often overlooked tasks when death occurs.
—A place to record all the biographical information your family will need for an obituary, funeral, or memorial service 
 

 

Before I Go makes a great stocking stuffer!

Is Funeral Home Chain SCI’s Growth Coming at the Expense of Mourners?

Bloomberg Business WeekOctober 24, 2013
In the death-care industry, as practitioners call it, SCI casts a long shadow. Based in Houston and publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYX), it operates more than 1,800 funeral homes and cemeteries …

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