An Unregulated Industry Ripe for Change

Mortuary News has been launched and was developed in an effort to effect change within the Funeral Industry. The horror stories abound. The inaction of funeral directors (who store bodies in garages, vans and in spaces with little or no refrigeration), continues to rise.

Those paying in advance for their funerals (known as pre-need contracts), are finding that what they paid for – they may never receive. Rogue funeral directors (who stack up human remains as though they’re nothing but, yesterday’s garbage), are receiving little to no jail time. Modest fines, (imposed by State Funeral Boards), do little to deter the unspeakable behavior of those who run afoul of state laws and in some cases those who have been fined (for unscrupulous practices), continue to be in operation.

State Funeral Boards, (comprised of those who are funeral industry trade professionals, funeral directors, embalmers, cemetery property owners and large corporations), outweigh the number of consumer advocates on those very same boards, thus creating an uneven playing field. In other words, a State Funeral Board (which has ten members), may have its policies driven by the six members who are attached to the industry trade. No doubt, a  conflict of interest.

Many states only inspect a funeral home once per year, while other states don’t even regulate crematory activities. In Florida, anyone can own a funeral home and not be required to be a licensed funeral director. In the case of Brock’s Hometown Funeral Home, sixteen bodies were found rotting in various states of decay in August 2016. 

It was found that the funeral manager (Felicia Boesch) was responsible for ten of the bodies bodies (stored within a crematory facility attached to the Brock’s Funeral Home known as Florida Vantage). The ten bodies under Ms. Boesch’s care decayed to the point where one was covered in white mold. For her crime, Ms. Boesch received a short probation period, no jail time and was released on her recognizance when initially arrested. Boesch then entered a diversion program and all ten charges for mishandling human remains were dropped and ABANDONED

In contrast, the Funeral Director in Charge (FDIC) of Brock’s (Marvin Martin, who lived a State away), was stripped of his license and one Gregory Dunphy (a Brock’s employee), was allowed to keep his embalmer’s license but, had his funeral director license revoked. 

Mr. Dunphy had five bodies under his care (half as many as Felecia Boesch) but, was the only person with a license on the premises at the time of the macabre discovery. Mr. Dunphy was arrested, put into a jail cell and was required to post bond in the amount of $6000.00. In addition, Mr. Dunphy states he was coerced into executing a Stipulation Agreement (just two weeks after the Brock’s discovery), at another funeral home he had worked at for many years. He signed that agreement in the presence of a State Inspector and his former employer (and a notary public who worked for his former employer). On this very same day, the closing inspection reports (for Brock’s and Vantage), were signed off by Felecia Boesch (a mile up the road at Brock’s).

Mr. Dunphy has cooperated with the producer’s of a television series entitled “Disturbing Peace” that raises many questions as to how Brock’s continued operations into 2016. The series takes a close look at those who initially came to Mr. Dunphy’s aid and those who ultimately deserted him. Was Mr. Dunphy a whistle blower unjustly accused? The series seeks to find the answer to this question and in the process, uncovers an industry fraught with deceit, lies, rabid competition (and cover ups)  in the beach side town of Panama City, Florida.

Mortuary News will hunt down funeral directors, funeral homes and those who disrespect the dead for sake of a revenues. The dead have rights. The surviving families have rights. 

The funeral industry has taken itself to its lowest levels of care in its history. Large corporations continue to overtake the industry with large purchases of funeral homes (and cemeteries), across the nation. Being bigger has not translated into a higher level of care, as just the opposite appears to have happened as evidenced by the stories on our website.

In order to ensure your loved one is treated respect you need to be involved in all things “funeral”. You need to hold the hand of your mother, father, son, daughter and child all the way to their final resting place. 

We can no longer just close our eyes to death. In the 80’s I produced a series of television programs which dealt with death and dying. It was a time when the funeral industry was filled with hope, love and care. That very same industry has come full circle and those who use the word “Dignity” (within their “sell campaigns”), offer anything but, dignity.

Dignity is treating everyone whose dead (or alive) with absolute respect. Dressing and preparing human remains with dignity, casketing them with dignity, storing their remains with dignity and ensuring their graves and crypts are cared for with dignity.

The industry relies on one thing (and one thing only) YOUR FEAR OF DEATH! They live off of it, they breath life into their company coffers (through it), and prop up their share prices by way of using Dignity in Death as the sell point. It’s one thing to advertise it, it’s another to actually do it right each and every time you plan and execute a funeral.

Honestly, death is not pretty, bodies ooze fluids and the face of death is simply a look into the mirror (for all of us), as to our ultimate destination. We pay a funeral director to deal with our mess. We seek reverence of our dead but, we don’t want to get to close – as to touch it – is to own it.

Those who have been discovered rotting away in garages, attics, vans and basements of funeral homes, crematories and body warehouses, would have been better off if they had washed and dressed by their own families and buried in the backyard. In this case, at least you’d know where they are, that they’re loved and cared for (in perpetuity), the grass will be cut, the stone will be laid and the flowers will bloom. 

However, we pay someone to make our dead look alive. We’ve all heard the expression (standing in front of an open casket), that they (the dead one), never looked so good. Hello? They’re dead. Not breathing and not coming back no matter how good you make them look. 

The process of body preparation is nothing more than cleaning them up, dressing them, holding their hand, giving them a big hug and saying good-bye. In the wild west, the dead were treated as though they were Jews, buried with respect and dignity. In the coming years, Americans got their first glimpse of what embalming could do by viewing Lincoln’s body taking it’s final train ride around the United States and an industry was born.

Sounds pretty clinical right? Because it is (for many). We look at morticians and wonder how they do it day after day. What many don’t realize is that prepping the body is the least amount of the work involved. It’s all about paperwork. Pushing paper, getting it back in time for the burial, getting paid and moving on to the next one. 

Need to get the body embalmed? Call the embalmer and he’ll come over for a few hundred bucks and get the job done. Need hair and make-up? Call the cosmetologist and your dead can look as though they just stepped out of Vidal Sassoon. Need to dress the deceased? Easy, Peasy. Cut the clothes (up the middle in the back – provided by the family of decedent), and slide them on.

One thing I learned from dealing with the Batesville Casket Company was how a casket showroom should be set up. Always put the most expensive caskets to the right, as the majority of us always walk to the right and look to the right. 

Batesville is an interesting company in that if you die in the hospital (in a Hill Rom bed), that bed was manufactured the very same company that makes the Batesville Casket. From cradle to grave or from Hill Rom Bed to Batesville Casket (a never ending cycle of profits all the way around). I once stood on the platform of the Batesville warehouse with a Vice President of Batesville who was proud to tell me that for every casket loaded into a Batesville truck, they made “X” amount of dollars in profit. He bellowed a laugh on proclaiming that statement. That very same company is now producing caskets in Mexico (of all places), in order to shore up its continued profit margins in the ever changing funeral industry (which is now turning to green burials and cremations).

And this is where we began. Funeral homes are being paid to cremate our dead and they can’t even do that right. No one knows how to load a tort and push the green button. In some cases no one is paying the gas man (as in the Brock’s case), and the bodies just pile up until the gas tank is topped off and that little button goes green.