Reclaiming the American Way of Death
By Josh Slocum and Lisa Carlson
Josh Slocum and Lisa Carlson are the two most prominent advocates of consumer rights in dealing with the death industry. Here they combine efforts to inform consumers of their rights and propose long-needed reforms. Slocum is executive director of Funeral Consumers Alliance, a national nonprofit with over 90 local affiliates nationwide. Carlson is executive director of Funeral Ethics Organization, which works with the industry to try to improve ethical standards. In addition to nationwide issues, the book covers state-by-state information needed by anybody who wishes to take charge of funeral arrangements for a loved one, with or without the help of a funeral director. More information about the book and related issues can be found at www.finalrights.org .
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About the Authors
Josh Slocum is executive director of Funeral Consumers Alliance. FCA is a national nonprofit organization with over 90 chapters throughout the U.S. Its site is http://www.funerals.org . Josh may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Lisa Carlson is executive director of Funeral Ethics Organization, http://www.funeralethics.org . FEO is a national nonprofit organization that works with the funeral industry in efforts to improve ethical standards and treatment of funeral consumers. She is a former executive director of FCA. She can be reached at email@example.com .
What People are Saying
(Reviewer: Joan Pedzich, Harris Beach PLLC, Rochester, NY)
Slocum (executive director, Funeral Consumers Alliance) and Carlson (executive director, Funeral Ethics Organization) offer a guide intended to prepare consumers to deal with what the authors claim is a deceptive and greedy funeral services industry. They look at the components of burying the dead, including choosing caskets and markers, dealing with cemeteries and funeral homes, understanding pre-need funeral purchases, and new and revived trends such as home funerals and green funerals. They offer numerous real-life examples of manipulation and questionable practices and provide tips for consumers to help avoid rip-offs, such as misleading perpetual-care arrangements and exorbitant embalming costs. There is practical advice on filing a complaint when wronged by the industry and a cautionary chapter on the Federal Trade Commission and what the authors see as its failure to enforce its own consumer protection rules.
VERDICT This book is a boon for those looking to simplify and personalize caring for the dead. The inclusion of a compilation of each state’s funeral laws, including statutory citations and guidance for those investigating home funerals and burials and body donation, make this an essential purchase for consumer-protection collections.
(Reviewer: Pam Vetter)
Every approach to dealing with death is different because it’s an individual choice. In today’s world, there are a variety of options in funeral service. Knowing your legal rights in making those funeral arrangements or handling those funeral arrangements yourself is vitally important to the process. “Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death,” written by authors Joshua Slocum and Lisa Carlson, is the most important resource book to guide you through the funeral process state-by-state.
In my years of experience as a Funeral Celebrant, the more hands-on a family is in their involvement in the funeral planning process and the resulting funeral service, the more healing the experience. If that means the family wants to make their own memorial folders, help dress the body or simply comb grandma’s hair for that final day, then so be it. That last personal act of kindness and love, whether big or small, may be what the family needs to start healing. Imagine taking that personal approach further and eliminating the funeral home’s involvement completely. Whatever the request, the family should be allowed to do it but there are limits as to what a family can legally do in some states. Maneuvering those requirements can be challenging in certain states. Answering the need, “Final Rights” details the legalities of what you can do in the process of dealing with the dead. With the most recent research, the authors have managed to provide a road map of legalities to funeral service inside and outside of using a funeral home. As a result, it’s a fabulous, fascinating read.
I especially appreciated that in the preface both authors shared their own experiences in dealing with death, dying and questioning the funeral industry to emphasize the importance of doing things your intended way. With my own personal experience, I can stress that if you don’t do what you need to do in the process of a loved one’s funeral, it may haunt you for the rest of your life. There are no do-overs in funeral service. If grandma didn’t want to be embalmed and you feel coerced into embalming her, you can’t un-embalm her after it’s done. With the help of this book, it reminds everyone to get funeral wishes in order, plan accordingly, ask questions, and follow-through on the plan.
Not much has changed in the decades since Jessica Mitford stunned America with her vivid description of deception and abuse in the death industry. Families are still exploited financially at a time of intense grief. They are charged thousands of dollars for goods and services they may not want or need. Prepaid funeral money disappears into thin air. Body parts are sold on the black market. In eight states, families are denied the healing that can come from greater personal involvement in caring for their own dead. And some in the industry are working to diminish consumer rights even further. But a funeral consumer movement is now rapidly awakening … The authors of this book are the most prominent leaders of that movement. Both Slocum and Carlson have a long history of proposing reforms and testifying on behalf of consumers before legislatures and other government bodies. They are widely sought by journalists as leading experts on all funeral issues. In this book, they join forces, to tell consumers how they can take back their own rights under existing law and to propose legal changes for the benefit of all American Consumers.
Note: Final Rights won the bronze award for reference books in ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Awards.
Death has been stripping people of the dignity it once had, thanks to profiteers seeing your corpse as a dollar sign. “Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death” delves into the death industry and its exploitation of grieving families. Stating that one can control and fight this exploitation before they passed on, or encouraging funeral processions outside of a funeral home, Joshua Slocum & Lisa Carlson provide intellectual approach to the grieving process so one doesn’t have to mourn their money as well as their loved one. “Final Rights” is a must for anyone who wants to be prepared for the unfortunate.
Like Jessica Mitford’s “American Way of Death,” “Final rights” deals with the industry that has evolved aroound our culture’s reluctance to face theimmutable fact of our deaths and what to do with “the remains.”
Written by the current and former executive directors of Funeral Consumers Alliance national office, “Final Rights” details in frequently polemic style methods of the funeral industry to increase profit. . . . The authors report many examples of funeral directors misinforming survivors that embalming is required by law and is necessary to prevent disease, despite the Federal Trade Commission specifically citing these practices as deceptive. Calling the FTC “a fickle ally,” the authors scathingly condemn the agency’s lack of enforcement of the Funeral Rule, since 1986 the only federal regulation dealing with funeral consumers’ rights.
State-by-state chapters on laws regulating what happens after death outline what consumers need to know to deal with the funeral industry or, if they choose, how to legally manage their own services.
Table of ContentsPreface, Lisa Carlson viiPreface, Lisa Carlson vii
Preface, Joshua Slocum x
Part 1 — Bodies, Business, and Traditions for Saying Goodbye 15
1 Circling the Hearses 17
2 Tricks of the Funeral Trade 35
3 Caskets, Other Boxes, Memorials, and Markers 48
4 Embalming — A beautiful memory picture? 57
5 Cemeteries — For-profit and non-profit 67
6 Preneed Sales — It’s not “all taken care of ” 81
7 Body Parts — Big business, little regulation 95
8 Federal Trade Commission — A fickle consumer ally 99
9 Filing an Effective Complaint — And what not to do 114
10 Mortuary Education — A dead end 123
11 Home Funerals — A returning tradition 130
12 Green Burial — What they used to just call “burial” 141
Part 2 — Funeral Law and Related Information for Consumers 149
Necessary Information for Family Involvement 151
In Alabama 161
In Alaska 168
In Arizona 173
In Arkansas 181
In California 188
In Colorado 197
In Connecticut 204
In Delaware 211
In the District of Columbia 218
In Florida 222
In Georgia 229
In Hawaii 234
In Idaho 239
In Illinois 245
In Indiana 252
In Iowa 260
In Kansas 267
In Louisiana 273
In Maine 280
In Maryland 285
In Massachusetts 292
In Michigan 304
In Minnesota 313
In Mississippi 319
In Missouri 326
In Montana 333
In Nebraska 337
In Nevada 345
In New Hampshire 352
In New Jersey 358
In New Mexico 365
In New York 370
In North Carolina 379
In North Dakota 385
In Ohio 390
In Oklahoma 397
In Oregon 405
In Pennsylvania 416
In Rhode Island 421
In South Carolina 426
In South Dakota 433
In Tennessee 439
In Texas 445
In Utah 453
In Vermont 459
In Virginia 465
In Washington 471
In West Virginia 477
In Wisconsin 484
In Wyoming 489
A — Ethical Standards & Unprofessional Conduct 495
B — Information Needed for the Death Certificate 499