Final Rights

Reclaiming the American Way of Death

Bonus material

Posted By on August 5, 2011

Before Final Rights, Lisa Carlson wrote two predecessor books: Caring for your Own Dead (1987) and Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love (1998). We agonized over which material from “Caring 2” to keep and which to leave out in Final Rights. So why not put some of it here?

The chapters on forming a funeral committee in your house of worship and on the mechanics of body donation are just as relevant as when they were written in 1998.


Library Journal says Final Rights is a “boon” for consumers

Posted By on July 11, 2011

We couldn’t ask for a better review from the most important trade publication for libraries:

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.

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.—Joan Pedzich, Harris Beach PLLC, Rochester, NY

Minnesota undertakers’ trade group thinks it owns your dead body

Posted By on May 29, 2011

In Final Rights we talk about the pervasive attitude in the funeral industry that undertakers have a natural right to the custom and patronage of every grieving family in their town. House Bill 1744 puts that on brazen display. Just a year after activists helped roll back unnecessary legislation that had restricted a family’s right to care for their own dead, the Minnesota Funeral Director’s Association has convinced a lawmaker to sponsor a bill that would give undertakers the sole legal right to your remains—and the profit they can extract from your family.

HB 1744:

  • Gets rid of the right of religious groups to transport the dead
  • Erases a section of law that makes it clear that  families don’t have to be licensed as funeral directors to carry out their own funerals privately, and deletes language that shows someone other than a funeral director can complete and file the death record.
  • Would require casket sales to be conducted only by licensed funeral homes. Would the state prosecute a woodworker who sells a pine box to his neighbor for burial?
  • Requires crematories to hire a licensed funeral director, an unnecessary cost that does nothing to protect the public but a lot to prop up funeral directors’ monopoly on the dead body business
  • Gets rid of dry ice as an acceptable substitute for embalming

This is outrageous, which would be immediately apparent to lawmakers if the topic were anything other than funerals. (more…)

Let’s Get It Started!

Posted By on April 26, 2011

It’s been five years since Lisa Carlson and I started researching and writing Final Rights, and it’s like Christmas morning to have the actual copies in our hands. We hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it. If you’re curious about the book, check out the first chapter, Circling the Hearses, free. It tells the story of how the American funeral business went from your local furniture store on Main Street in the 1800s to the $15-billion-a-year behemoth it is today. how to seo your website

As the book begins to sell, we’d love to hear from readers and potential readers. What do you want to talk about? Funeral prices? Whether it’s legal to perform a funeral yourself without hiring a funeral home? Natural burials without formaldehyde and concrete cases?

Help us shape this blog by telling us what you want to talk about—leave us a comment below!