If anyone doubts that the dead are being mishandled at the hands of funeral directors, embalmers and funeral home employees, one doesn’t have to look any further then the online edition of Mortuary News.
While Mortuary News isn’t a friend to the funeral industry, it is a warning to consumers that they should be checking with their State Funeral Board for any past and ongoing complaints against funeral industry providers.
Complaints Piling Up!
Complaints can range from not holding bodies at 40 degrees (or lower), to not performing cremations (in a timely manner) and even interring decedents in the wrong grave. Some of the most horrifying complaints concern the discovery of decaying remains at funeral homes and body storage warehouses. Across the country, the bodies are literally piling up and (rotting away), thanks to those in the industry who seek to profit off of death and unwary consumers.
If you need a dose of reality (and aren’t squeamish), visit the Mortuary News Archives by clicking here to review just a sampling of funeral home horror stories.
What may be as disturbing as the stories, is the lack of oversight in many States in their attempt to regulate an industry out of control. In some cases, funeral homes (and crematories) aren’t inspected but once per year. In other cases, funeral homes can operate without a valid license.
As for the authorities, they appear to be ill equipped in dealing with the rising number of cases. Florida has had its share of cases, in which bodies have been found decaying in non-refrigerated spaces. The mishandling of human remains is classified as a misdemeanor (in Florida), and may need to be deemed a felony in order to appease decedent families who seek justice for their dead. Speaking of justice, there appears to be little to no justice for decedent families, as those who rob the dead have nothing left to pay back the living.
Lack of Oversight!
In some cases, State Inspectors appear to find nothing out of sorts during an on site (annual) inspection, but, that doesn’t mean there aren’t hundreds of complaints, filed by consumers (in Florida), each and every year. These are the cases (by the hundreds), that are either never resolved and/or settled behind closed doors between decedent families and the funeral provider. In other cases, the State Board simply doles out modest fines, as a punishment which is viewed as nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
In Florida, the State Funeral Board is comprised of ten members, six of which are funeral industry connected. If a criminal case is brought before the State Board, it’s possible that vital information between the law enforcement agencies (investigating a case) and the State Board, is not shared, thus, allowing the State Board to come to its own conclusion – which may or may not be – based on limited information. Many walk free from crimes classified as misdemeanors.
Self Regulation Not Working..
The pervasive attitude, among the those within the funeral industry, is that one way to control public perception is to self regulate. The notion that creating state boards, which are top heavy with industry related members, appears to serve little purpose. The crimes against the dead mean nothing more to those who simply aim to bury their mistakes (or turn them into ash), before the inspector arrives on the front doorstep.
In Florida, there have been cases in which prep rooms have been used to store bodies (as to save on paying body storage fees to outside providers).
If you walk into a funeral home and its extremely cold, remains may be being held inside the prep room (or basement) . The AC is turned down low in order to preserve remains and to stave off decomposition.
In another case, one funeral home allowed an employee to incise decedents, sew up those who had been autopsied and embalm decedents (without ever having attended mortuary school). In yet another case, a cemetery was found to be stacking up bodies (five high) in order to keep selling plots. Where does it end? It doesn’t.
Just this past week, a funeral home employee at Lanterman & Allen Funeral Home in Stroudsburg, PA., was arrested for taking pictures of dead bodies and selling drugs. This Funeral Director actually snapped images of a dead body – whose organs had been removed – and shared it as a joke with friends on her cell phone.
Angel Stewart (the Funeral Director at Lanterman & Allen Funeral Home) told the police this was just a prank. The joke was extended so she could share another image (with her friends), of a dead body covered in maggots. Angel didn’t stop with just sharing images of two corpses; she pleaded guilty to abusing 16 corpses in this fashion and all she received was ten years probation and 250 hours of community service.
They Call This Dignity?
It should be noted that Lanterman & Allen is a Dignity Memorial funeral home. Dignity Memorial is a trademark of SCI which owns and operates in excess of 1,000 funeral homes, cemeteries and crematories across the United States. SCI revenues account for more than 16% of death revenues across the nation.
The problem the funeral industry faces is that consumers are beginning to learn that they might as well dig a hole in their own backyard, wash their loved ones dead body, dress it, place dry ice under it and have their own wake. The funeral industry is simply ripping off unwary consumers, cutting corners to maximize profits, mishandling remains and simply not caring enough to care about anyone other than themselves. They have become a self-serving industry of profiteers.
How do you know who you can trust? You don’t. Look at every funeral industry provider with distrust. They are strangers to you and you’re about to entrust your loved one to them. What they do with your loved ones body is anyone’s’ guess after they’ve taken possession.
The following are just a few things you can do to check out the background of a funeral home or funeral director:
Call your State Funeral Board and confirm the license of the Funeral Home and Funeral Director in Charge is in force and that there are NO CURRENT or CLOSED investigations.
Call your State Funeral Board and request any and all complaints against the Funeral Home and Funeral Director in Charge. In some cases (such as Florida) you’ll get nowhere with this request as they make you submit such requests in writing.
Ask the funeral director to take you on a tour of the funeral home. If they decline then find another funeral home, as they more than likely have something to hide.
If you smell “death” upon walking into a funeral home this can only mean one thing. They’ve got one or more bodies decaying on the premises. The smell of death is unforgettable. Call the police if you even get a whiff of death on the premises.
Ask if the funeral home has a refrigeration unit (where your loved one will be held until he/she is cremated and/or be prepared for a wake). Don’t be shy, ask to see the cooler area and ensure the temperature on that cooler is at 40 degrees or below. If it’s not on, ask why. If there’s a body in the cooler (and it’s not on), call the police.
See flies flying around the funeral home? This is another sign of decaying bodies and bodies not being stored properly.
Check your loved ones body to ensure it has not been mishandled. There are no rules to what you’re allowed to view inside a funeral home – when it comes to your loved one. In many cases, you can assist in washing the body, help dress the body, apply make up and even witness the embalming. If your loved one is being cremated, you may be allowed to witness the cremation.
Don’t be afraid to be around the person you loved in death, as the only difference (in death) is the inability to communicate and react. You can still hold their hand, dress them and help them get to their next stop knowing (in your heart) that you’re the one who got them there.