Sunday, December 22, 2013

THE DARK SIDE OF TISSUE DONATION........ One mans Journey.

The following article was copied from the website . I do not make any claims to its authenticity and it is strictly informative in nature. It is one mans "Journey".  It is a very good blog. Remember, THIS GUY WORKED IN THE INDUSTRY AND DONATED HIS DAUGHTERS ORGANS, He has seen both sides.....


The Dark Side of Tissue Donation

For as long as tissue banks have been in existence there has been a debate over which is a better steward of the gift; a for-profit agency or a not-for-profit agency.
At the heart of the debate is the fact that no donor family likes the idea that someone may be getting rich from the sale of their loved one’s organs and tissues. The family is donating the gifts for purely humanitarian reasons; their hope is that someone else’s life will be saved or at the very least made better by the gifts so graciously donated.
This is how my wife and I felt when we chose to donate our two-year-old daughter’s organs and heart valves on March 1st of 1999. At the time our number one goal was to create something positive from the death of our daughter; to help someone else live by giving our daughter’s organs and tissues. We simply assumed that whoever used our daughter’s gifts would be good stewards of the gifts meaning that they would be procured appropriately and distributed appropriately.
The Personal Journey
The University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinic’s Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) harvested our daughter’s liver, pancreas and intestines and Allograft Resources (which was a not-for-profit tissue procurement organization at the time) harvested her heart valves.

After our daughter’s death and subsequent donation we had the incredible chance to meet the recipient and her family. We were able to see first-hand the good that can come from organ and tissue donation. Our single goal was achieved; through our daughter’s gifts helped save another family from going through what we were going through at that very moment – planning for the funeral of our baby girl.

 I believed in organ and tissue donation so strongly that shortly after my daughter’s donation I was hired by Allograft Resources as a member of their procurement team. Over the years, though, Allograft Resources was essentially “bought” by the organization that processed the donated tissues that Allograft Resources recovered – Regeneration Technologies Inc. (RTI) of Alachua, FL (a for-profit company). As Allograft Resources began changing hands, the focus of the “business” began changing from helping donor families to helping the company’s bottom line.
The Ugly Dollar raises its head yet again
Soon after the acquisition of Allograft Resources RTI became a publicly traded company. That is when things really started going down hill. For example LifeCell, a skin processing company, began handing out “Golden Dermatome” awards (a dermatome is the surgical instrument used to procure skin) to the people that recovered the most skin per donor. Instead of being careful to follow the wishes of the family our procurement teams competed against each other to see who could recover the most skin. In reality, the Donors were reduced to nothing more than a square footages of skin.
Another example of “beefing up the bottom line” was the introduction of “research” tissue procurement. Families are told that tissues not suitable for transplant may be suitable for use by researchers searching for cures for diseases and conditions. What the families weren’t told was that research tissues may include the procurement of an entire foot, an ear, a nose, a spine – virtually anything (especially if the donor was to be a direct cremation).
By the time a procurement team was done with a donor, the tissues could be sold for a total that sometimes topped $100,000 (from what limited information I could gather – tissue banks are tight-lipped about the values of human tissue).
I began investigating where the money trail led. The emotion behind this charged topic is simple: no donor family wants to think that some company executive is driving around in a Jaguar purchased with an exorbitant salary earned from the sale of donated organs and tissues. Unfortunately, though, that’s exactly what is happening.
In reviewing RTI’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings and stockholder reports the true
magnitude of the money being earned by this one company alone is very obvious.
In 2003 RTI listed net revenues at $75.5 million and in 2004 that number climbed to $92.7 million. In 2003 executive compensation packages added up to over $1.4 million dollars with the CEO earning over half a million dollars alone.

 In 2005 available bonuses for the executives range from $250,000 for the CEO to $90,000 for the VPs and total $710,000 together. This is in addition to the 4% raise that was approved for each executive’s salary.
As if this wasn’t enough, RTI set up a “retention and severance agreement” designed to “maintain stability” following the company’s announcement that they’re exploring “strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value”. The retention and severance agreement would come into play should the company be sold if the “strategic review” leads to the sale of the company.
Over $1.7 MILLION ($1,700,000.00) has been set aside to reward employees for staying with the new company as a retention bonus or to be paid as severance pay should they lose their job in the shuffle.

 At the heart of the matter is one, simple fact ;
everyone is making money off the donated organs and tissues and not one cent finds its way back to the donor or donor family.
 Procurement teams are paid, the facilities where the procurements are taking place are paid, procurement agencies’ operating budgets are paid, shipping to processing labs is paid, processing costs are covered and the final cost to the end recipient is charged by the hospital who is charged by the processing lab for that particular tissue. Even the nurses and doctors in the transplant surgery are paid. Thousands of people make their livings (and damn good livings) off gifts so graciously donated by humanitarians.
How is this fair?
There is a federal law on the books that makes it illegal to sell human organs and tissues but it does allow for the recovery of “necessary costs and fees” relating to the procurement, processing and transplanting of the donated tissues. unfortunately these companies are responsible and the CEO's are the ones designating the outrageous prices for procurement, processing and transplanting of the your deceased family members donated tissues. In other words, they sidestep the law to designate how much they will charge to do the "Paperwork", and tell the federal government that the tissue is free. This can vary from patient to patient, tissue sample to tissue sample, or decedent to decedent. Its what they choose to charge for the "Paperwork". Not the tissue........
Something for the family.....

 It is time that the greedy for-profit and not-for-profit organ and tissue banks stop hiding behind this law and start paying at least something back to the donor family. Keep in mind; no donor family will ever say that they hoped to realize a financial gain by donating their loved one’s tissues. Everyone, like me, has deeply personal reasons for donating. However, that doesn’t mean that everybody but the family should make money from the gifts.
Average Funeral....
My proposal is simple; require tissue banks and organ procurement organizations to pay for an “average” funeral for the donor (with “average” taking into account the geographic and economic region’s average funeral costs). The family can choose a more elaborate funeral but the OPOs and
Average Funeral Costs.......
tissue banks would only be required to pay out “average” costs. The family should also be given the opportunity to use the payout to fund any memorial or charity they wish (such as a bench in the park or donation to hospice care etc.).

 This would end the hotly contested and often debated for-profit versus not-for-profit status. In the end, everyone in the business turns a profit off the gifts so graciously donated. It is only right that the family receive a portion to either cover the funeral or to be used charitably. Although it is a statement that you will probably never hear voluntarily from a donor family, if everyone else is making money from our loved ones’ gifts we deserve something too.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) released the results of its 2013 Member General Price List Study in August 2013. The report provides a comprehensive picture of the diversity of costs associated with a funeral/burial service in the United States..

Perhaps the most frequently requested piece of information produced by the survey is the national average  cost of a funeral. Since the 1960s, NFDA has calculated the average cost of a funeral by totaling the costs of the following items:
  • Non-declinable basic services fee
  • Removal/transfer of remains to funeral home
  • Embalming
  • Other preparation of the body
  • A metal casket or rental casket
  • Use of the funeral home and staff for viewing
  • Use of the funeral home and staff for a funeral ceremony
  • Use of the funeral home and staff for a graveside service or urn 
  • Use of a hearse
  • Use of a service car/van
  • A basic memorial printed package (e.g., memorial cards, register book, etc.)
The national average cost of a funeral, as quoted by the NFDA for calendar year 2013 is $7,635. If a grave vault is included, something that is typically required by a cemetery, the average cost is $8,933. The cost does not take into account cemetery, monument or marker costs, crematory fees (if cremation is selected instead of burial), or miscellaneous cash-advance items, such as flowers, obituaries and funeral procession escorts. Many factors contribute to the final determination of how an individual funeral home prices its good and services, including the firm's business philosophy and the market in which it operates and corporate or independent ownership.

National AVERAGE Cost of an Adult Funeral vs. Avenidas Funeral Chapel as per the National Funeral Director Association for 2013

Services or Merchandise                                            NFDA COST   Avenidas COST
Non-declinable basic services Charge                                  $1,975             $795
Transfer of remains to funeral home                                     $285                $250
Embalming                                                                            $695                $395
Other preparation of the body                                               $225                $160
Use of facilities/staff for a visitation                                     $495                $295
Use of facilities/staff for funeral ceremony                          $495                $295
Use of facilities/staff for a graveside service or urn             $495                $175
Basic Memorial Print Package                                              $150                $85
Hearse                                                                                    $295                $300
Service car/van                                                                      $130                $50      
Subtotal without casket                                                      $5,240             $2,800
Metal casket                                                                          $2,395             $850 (12 different styles)
Average cost for the most frequently purchased casket)

Average cost of funeral with casket                                     $7,635             $3,650  
Vault(grave box)                                                                  $1,298             $680 (concrete grave box)
Average charge for the most frequently purchased vault)
Total with services, vault and casket                     $8,933     $4,330

That's a savings of  $4,603.00 with Avenidas Funeral Chapel or the standard price for a cemetery plot, or even a second funeral service. (pre-arrangement?) That gives you $273 left over (mariachi?).

So there you have it. This is a survey of random funeral homes, including those in the greater Phoenix area and their pricing for services for burial, but can also give you an idea as to what they may charge for cremation. The price comparison that is introduced reflecting Avenidas Funeral Chapels prices is as those items selected from our General Price List. We have funeral packages that offer much more at a substantial saving to you and your family far under the price listed above. These are burial packages that are inclusive of everything needed, also we have access to cemetery property at a local cemetery for $2,995, opening and closing included. Oh, and that price for direct cremation? $585. Compared to our local corporate competitor? $2,200.

Monday, September 16, 2013


An article I found on It is informative and very neutral. Please feel free to develop your own conclusions.

Have you ever considered what your funeral should be like, what kind of service there should be, or even what kind of coffin you would prefer? If you're over age 50, you probably have, and you may have even done some pre-planning.
According to a 2007 survey by AARP, 34 percent of the over-50 population has done some pre-planning and 23 percent have pre-paid a portion or all of the funeral or burial expenses for themselves or someone else. That translates into 20 million people age 50 or older who have already paid some funeral expenses.
A traditional funeral, including a casket and vault, costs about $6,000, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and additions such as obituary notices, flowers and limousines easily run up the total to over $10,000.
There are plenty of reasons to pre-plan and, if possible, pre-pay your final arrangements long before the need arises.
Pre-planning, is it worth it?
Most funeral homes today offer pre-planning services. This allows you to go in and make arrangements for some or all of your own funeral, down to every detail. The funeral director will give you a price list for goods and services, which is required under the FTC's "Funeral Rule."
Pre-planning relieves your family of significant stress and uncertainty over arrangements. It may even head off arguments among family members over what you wanted for your services and burial.
Price guarantees?
If you elect to pre-pay your arrangements, many funeral directors will offer a price guarantee. That means you can lock in today's prices no matter when your funeral is held in the future. With funeral prices only destined to go up, this is a smart choice.
If your prices are not locked in and you pre-pay, your family may need to pay extra at the time of your funeral to make up the difference.
In drawing up pre-paid contracts, funeral directors may offer guaranteed prices for some items but not for others. For example, prices on flowers and grave services may not be guaranteed.
Pre-paying a funeral
Once your pre-planned arrangements are set, you can elect to pay a portion or all of the bill before your death. This too lifts the burden from family members and helps ensure that your wishes are carried out. There are three main ways to fund a pre-paid funeral:
·         Final expense insurance
·         Pre-need insurance
·         Pre-need trusts
·         Pay On Death Account
Final expense insurance
Final expense insurance, also known as "burial" or "funeral" insurance, is a life insurance policy with a low face value, such as $5,000 to $50,000, that you buy directly from an insurance company. You can name any beneficiary, typically a family member, who would make the claim and receive the money upon your death. That beneficiary would then be responsible for using the money to carry out your wishes.
The beneficiary legally could decide to use the money any way they want, so make sure you trust your beneficiary. Also, if your benefit amount exceeds the cost of your funeral, the beneficiary keeps the difference. For example, if you have a final expense policy for $15,000 and your services and burial end up costing $12,000, your beneficiary would pay the bill and keep the extra $3,000.
"Final expense" insurance policies are low face value term or whole life policies.
Final expense policies are either "term life" (which covers you for a specific time period or until a certain age, then expires) or "whole life" (which covers you for the rest of your life). They are generally either "simplified issue" policies, for which you're asked several medical questions but don't have to take a medical exam, or "guaranteed issue," where the policy is issued to anyone who applies with no medical questions asked.
For example, Globe Life markets final expense policies through direct mail with face values from $5,000 to $50,000. Globe Life's final expense policies are "term to 80," meaning that the policies expires at age 80 if no benefit has been paid. They are "simplified issue" policies with applications that ask for your medical history going back three years. The maximum age for buying Globe Life final expense insurance is 75.
People who have a serious health problem may receive a policy with a "graded death benefit," which means the coverage amount increases over time and your beneficiaries won't receive the full face value if you die within the first few years of the policy.
Remember that any life insurance policy can be used to pay for a funeral. You can buy any term or whole life policy and instruct your beneficiary to use a portion or all of the death benefit for your funeral. Standard term and whole life policies, however, aren't offered in low face amounts like $5,000, which is why final expense policies can be handy if you need insurance money only to cover funeral expenses.
If you have other financial obligations, such as a mortgage and dependents who are counting on you to pay for college, you're better off buying a standard term life or whole life policy in an amount that can cover a number of family needs, including final expenses.
Pre-need insurance
Another type of life insurance policy, called pre-need insurance, is intended for the person who has selected specific arrangements at a funeral home and wants the assurance that those arrangements will be paid for and implemented. Unlike final expense policies, which you buy directly from an insurance company, pre-need policies are sold by funeral home directors or their representatives who are also licensed agents. The funeral home is the beneficiary of the policy and the funeral director  or his agent receives a commission, like any agent, for selling you the policy.
These policies can be paid in one lump sum or over time. Funeral directors who are agents for pre-need insurance typically offer policies underwritten by just one company. That means you won't be able to "comparison shop" for price; you'll have to take the pre-need policy rate that's offered or decline it.
The funeral home is the beneficiary of the pre-need insurance policy.
 Say you've picked out a funeral home and made pre-arrangements there by selecting goods and services that total $5,000. If the funeral home offers pre-need insurance, you could purchase a policy right there for $5,000. Even better would be if the funeral home offered a price guarantee for your selections. If they don't, and your future funeral costs $6,500, your family would need to pay the extra $1,500 to carry out your wishes.
Pre-need insurance saves your family effort, too. The funeral director makes the claim, receives the money, and carries out your wishes. Before buying, find out what happens if you change your mind and want to move arrangements to a different funeral home.
"Insurance is king," says Chuck Wetmore of American Funeral & Cemetery Trust Services in Oregon, which helps administer pre-need trusts around the country, including the California Master Trust. Wetmore estimates that about 80 percent of pre-paid funerals are funded by insurance.
Pre-need insurance laws vary by state and New York does not allow the sale of pre-need insurance at all.
Pre-need trusts
Another option is to make pre-arrangements with your funeral director and fund those arrangements by putting cash into a trust, which holds the money until your death and then disperses it to the funeral director. This arrangement also relieves your family of last-minute decisions. But just as with pre-need insurance, if you don't have a “price guarantee” on your funeral selections, it's possible that the money you put into a trust today won't fully cover expenses in the future.
Under this arrangement, your payment for funeral arrangements is deposited into a federally insured bank until your death. Depending on your state, your money may be put into an individual trust account or a "master" trust, which pools many individual trusts. The value of the trust can rise and fall depending on the investment performance. However, if you have a guaranteed-price contract from your funeral director, he takes on the market risk from the trust and must provide the services you selected no matter how well the trust's investments have performed.
A pre-need trust holds the money until your death and then disperses it to the funeral director.
Many states allow funeral directors to keep a portion of your trust payment. For example, Washington allows a funeral director to keep 10 percent, Nebraska allows 15 percent and Colorado allows 25 percent. California allows nothing to be retained by funeral directors.
No matter what amount a funeral director may retain, if you cancel your trust you will receive all your money back.
If trust investments have done well, there will be "overage" between the trust value and the cost of the funeral. What happens then varies by region. Some funeral directors will pocket the difference; east of the Mississippi, they usually return it to the family. In New York, any money left in the trust after funeral costs must be returned to the family.
Pre-need trusts can be revocable or irrevocable. Funds in a revocable trust can be withdrawn at any time if you change your mind. But if you're spending down your assets in order to qualify for social services such as Medicaid, you'd need to put your pre-paid funeral money into an irrevocable trust, which cannot be withdrawn until your death and removes it from your assets.
Your funeral director may offer both pre-need insurance and trust services. If you're set on using a particular funeral home, your pre-pay options will be limited by what the funeral director has chosen to offer. Funeral directors who offer only pre-need trusts do not have to go through the time and expense of getting licensed in order to sell pre-need insurance in the state.
Pay on Death account
Establish a "Pay on Death" (POD) account at your bank. This is an account designating your funeral home as the beneficiary upon your death. Make sure you inform the funeral home, family members, executor and lawyer of the existence of the account. You can cancel the account without penalty.
Earmark a savings account. Make provisions for your family members to withdraw funds at your death to pay for funeral services. You can always change your mind.
Weighing pre-need insurance vs. pre-need trusts
In Wetmore's opinion, "Trusts are better for the family and the funeral director." If you're weighing your options, here are some important points to consider:
  1. Ask for a guaranteed price plan no matter how you'll fund your funeral.
  2. For items and services that cannot be price-guaranteed, ask for a written estimate of the cost so your family will know what to expect.
  3. You may be declined for insurance due to age or health.
  4. The funeral home director receives a commission for selling you a pre-need policy.
  5. You can't "comparison shop" for pre-need insurance rates; the funeral director chooses your insurer, but you select the face amount.
  6. Funeral directors may have financial incentives for selling a large volume of pre-need policies; for example, they may receive extra compensation if they sell a lot of policies for one company.
  7. If you use a pre-need trust, make sure your contract includes a cancellation clause. Some states may allow a "revocation fee" to be charged.
  8. If your money is held in a trust, in some states your family members may be able to strip down your funeral service arrangements and receive cash back.
  9. Know where your trust money is being invested; you may receive an annual statement of earnings or be required to report interest income on your taxes.
  10. If you received social services before your death, your family cannot receive trust money back; any difference between the funeral cost and the trust amount would have to be returned to the state.
  11. If you're buying a final expense or pre-need insurance policy, find out if it's possible you will pay more premiums than your beneficiaries will receive in death benefit.
  12. AARP urges you to find out if your pre-paid arrangements can be moved to another funeral home.
 "It's all taken care of"
Pre-paid funerals, no matter how they're funded, and guaranteed-price contracts can offer tremendous peace of mind to you and your family.
But people may have different ideas about "taking care of everything."
"Mom/Dad said everything was taken care of." That's what We hear often when we talk to families. Yet families who were told by parents that "everything was taken care of" often had unpleasant surprises upon arriving at the funeral home.
In our experience, often some families are surprised to discover that only a burial plot had been paid for. Others are surprised to find out that a list of desired arrangements was made at a funeral home but nothing paid for. Still other families have been told that "everything is taken care of" but never told which funeral home has the paperwork. And then there are the families who find out after a funeral that a pre-need plan was in place at a funeral home across town. (In that case, proceeds go back to the family.)
any way, it tends to cause a lot of turmoil within the family, if not done right, But what is right? That is up to you, the family or the individual to decide...
Whatever level of pre-arranging you do, make sure that key members of your family know what's in place and where.
Where can I go with this policy?
The magic about a pre-need funeral insurance is that you can use it anywhere!!! (unless it specifically says). If you are told you cant, ask the funeral home to "SHOW YOU". Better yet, TAKE it to another funeral home and ask them.
Lets say you purchase a policy at a local funeral home in Tolleson or Goodyear Arizona. The policy itself has a value of about $6,500.00 In that policy you have purchased;
1. Basic Service of the funeral director and staff
2. Transport to the funeral home
3. Embalming & body preparation
4. Dressing Casketing and cosmetics
5. 20 gauge Casket of your choosing at the time
6. 2 hour visitation
7. Church service
8.  Hearse
9. Flower van
10. Book and folders
11. Casket cross
12. Graveside service
13. Cash advance items of $1,000.00 for;
  • Flowers
  • Escorts
  • Some cemetery charges
  • Musicians
  • Death certificates
  • Dove release
All these items are charged or added up at that specific funeral homes charges. Thus $6,500.00 is your cost.
So lets say you want to go to another local funeral home in Avondale where the same services cost about $3,800.00...
Well, that leaves you with $2,700.00 too use as you wish to add more to the same service for the deceased at this lower costing funeral home, or even take home with you.
That's $2,700.00.....
Now, as the policy grows old, the cash you pay into this policy grows interest, that interest is used to pay for the service when you need to use it at that times charges. That is how funeral homes "lock in" those prices.
Should you choose to use that policy at another location, that is less expensive than the local Goodyear or Tolleson funeral home, you will probably have funds "LEFT OVER".
 Let me repeat that, you will probably have funds "LEFT OVER"
What can you do with those funds? ANYTHING YOU LIKE! Add on to the service, spend it at the cemetery for a marker, use it to have a luncheon after the service or even a little gathering for food.
Basically, it is your to decide. Just because it is in the policy does not mean that you HAVE to give it to the funeral home.
Oh, and that "CASH ADVANCE" amount in the policy? it was put there to pay for those items listed above, please do not let the funeral director con you into upgrading the casket using that money. That is pure profit for them, and now you have to pay for those cash advance items out of pocket.
So there you go, now you know. Use the policy where you want, no matter what the funeral home says. It is to be used to bury the deceased, not profit the funeral home.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


You Don't Have to Spend a Ton on a Funeral - Here's Why...


As the director of Funeral Consumers Alliance, a nonprofit that helps people avoid funeral fraud, I know all about mortuary mythology. (That’s what I call the collective "wisdom" about death, dying, funerals, and dead people.) Most Americans get their information about how to bury the dead from the people we pay to do it for us—not exactly the most disinterested source.
Funeral directors aren’t all crooks... and making your living burying the dead is a perfectly respectable career. But they are in business to pay their bills. Even super-savvy shoppers let their brains go on vacation when they buy one of the most emotionally fraught and potential costly services. You don’t walk into the car dealer with a blank check and you shouldn’t do it at the undertaker’s.
It's a fact of life that we're all going to die at some point. While it's not something you probably want to think about, you can make … (Read this link) Consumers call FCA by the thousands and talk about death in the subjunctive mood: “Well, I don’t need your services now, but if anything should ever happen to me. . .” Death is not an optional lifestyle choice that may not be right for you. Having suffered a heart attack at age 36, I can tell you you’re not too young to die, either. That conversation with your kids about how to budget, compare credit card rates, protect your online life? You need to have it about death, too. Funeral planning is family planning, and leaving the ones you love without the tools they need is like sending your kids out of the nest believing the stork is going to deliver their first baby.  
The Gleaming Casket or Plain Pine Box. Does it Matter?
No gleaming casket will put dear mom on the fast track to sainthood, and no plain pine box will insult dad. Whether you choose something simple or something elaborate, the dead will stay dead and our love for them will live on. So, what's a "dignified" funeral? Whatever you decide and whatever fits your family's emotional needs and budget. I've been to two-day affairs with the dead on display and I've been to homespun potluck memorial services at Uncle Stu's house. There was no difference in the amount of laughter, tears, and hugs.
Don't Spend $8,000 to $10,000 on a funeral

This figure gets passed about as if it were a law of nature. The truth is a "funeral" can mean anything from a bare-bones cremation to a three-day viewing and procession to the grave (and anything in between). Local Funeral Consumer Alliance groups do price surveys of burial and cremation costs and they routinely find a difference of thousands of dollars, all for exactly the same service. But if you do like most people and use the same funeral home every time, you'll never know if you're paying more than you need to. Would you make any other major purchase without comparing options? Funerals are a "distress purchase," so the Federal Trade Commission's Funeral Rule gives you specific protections.

The rule requires funeral homes to:
  • Give price quotes by phone (HONEST ONES!)
  • Let you choose item-by-item (vs. forcing you to buy a package)
  • Accept a casket you bought elsewhere or made yourself without charging a fee.
  • Be truthful about any laws that do or don't require you to buy specific things.

The Law Says What?

If someone, especially someone in the death care business, tells you that the law requires or prohibits
something, treat it as "it didn't happen or they didn't say it." Insist that they show you the actual law if they are persistent. Nine times out of ten, it never existed in the first place. Sometimes people are just passing along "what everyone knows or what they've heard," and sometimes you're being scammed to pad the bill. Those people are using their assumed experience in the industry to guide you, not maliciously, but still...
Here are some things you should know:
  • No federal or state law requires embalming for all deaths.(not one)
  • No federal or state law requires embalming as a condition of viewing the body. (not one)
  • No federal or state law requires a casket or a grave vault as a condition of burial, and there are no government standards for casket construction.
  • Dead people aren't a public health problem. You're infinitely more likely to catch the flu from other mourners who are breathing and coughing.
  • Most states don't even require you use a funeral home. Yes, I'm saying it's legal to do it pioneer-style and have a simple funeral performed entirely by the family.
Prepaying Isn't Magic - "Except for folks who have to "spend-down" to qualify for Medicaid, prepayment isn't usually in your best interests. Yes, the funeral home probably told your parents they'd lock in today's prices and that everything was "all taken care of." But the fact is, prepaid funerals are regulated differently in every state, and in many cases you can lose a great deal of what you paid if you cancel or change your mind before death. What's more, kids whose parents prepaid for their funerals are some of the hardest consumers to help if circumstances have changed.
Bottom line: You can't "take care of everything" for your family any more than you can guarantee them career success or a comfortable environment. Your family doesn't need nice-sounding but unrealistic promises—they need you to help educate them on how to plan and carry out your final arrangements without confusion or overspending. OH! there is no such thing as "UNDERSPENDING" while making arrangements. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013


I thought it necessary to give you the rule of Catholic law to assist you in making decision in regard to burial over cremation for Catholics. Seeing how burial is almost becoming a financial impossibility and many Catholic Cemeteries and NOW Mortuaries are charging prices that are unobtainable to families, you need to know your options.

As a Catholic, may I be cremated?

 YES, YES, YES, In May 1963, the Vatican's Holy Office (now the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith) lifted the prohibition forbidding Catholics to choose cremation. This permission was incorporated into the revised Code of Canon Law of 1983 (Canon # 1176), as well as into the Order of Christian Funerals. It then became standard practice to celebrate the funeral liturgies with the body and then take the body to the crematorium. Most recently the bishops of the United States and Holy See have authorized the celebration of a Catholic funeral liturgy with the cremated remains when the body is cremated before the funeral.

Do I need to ask permission to be cremated?

No, but it is a good idea to discuss your reasons with your pastor or other parish minister.

 When should cremation take place?

The Church prefers that cremation take place after the full funeral liturgy with the body. However, in the American culture, cremation often takes place immediately or soon after death.

"Sometimes, however, it is not possible for the body to be present for the Funeral Mass. When extraordinary circumstances make the cremation of a body the only feasible choice, pastoral sensitivity must be exercised by all who minister to the family of the deceased." Order of Christian Funerals, Appendix II) (in other words, the catholic priest may authorize this, do not let them tell you it is Christian/Catholic rule)

Is it necessary to embalm?

When cremation follows the funeral liturgy, embalming is usually necessary. When cremation follows soon after death, embalming is not necessary in Arizona, (if no viewing is to be had and the funeral home is to refrigerate) Honestly, that is the law, But the funeral home may require if it is their policy. Each state has its own regulations in this matter, but generally the rule is that a deceased human body that is not buried or cremated within 24 to 48 hours is to be embalmed or refrigerated. However, simple embalming and the use of a cremation casket need not involve excessive costs. (Funeral Homes are not required to have refrigeration facilities in Arizona, it is a "catch 22". be cautious if you are told the un-embalmed body must be embalmed. If there is no refrigeration, move on)

Is it necessary to purchase a casket for cremation?

No. The only thing required is a simple container in which the body can be transported and placed in the cremation chamber. (cardboard box, you will need nothing more, do not be oversold on anything else)

If you choose to have the body present for Mass, with cremation to follow, rental is an option. Many funeral directors offer regular caskets for rent, as well as the special cremation or shell casket which you may purchase. (again, do not be sold on a wood "cremation casket", these are very expensive and easy to be over marketed)

What is the proper container for cremated remains?

Appropriate containers (not necessarily expensive) such as a classic urn are proper for the cremated remains. At the present time the U.S. Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy has determined only what is not a proper container. Although jewelry, dishes, statuary and space capsules are now being offered, they are unacceptable in Catholic funeral practices. It is also unacceptable to have your cremated remains made into jewelry, dishes and the like. (a simple plastic box provided by the funeral home is acceptable. Also sheet bronze cubes are acceptable)

How are cremated remains transported?

It is a matter of personal choice. Individuals personally carrying a deceased person's ashes will often have the added responsibility of packing and transporting the urn. You may wrap the container of cremated remains with the possibility of sending it as accompanying baggage or take it along as carry-on luggage. Some states regulate the transport of cremated remains. Ask the airline office or your state's Department of Public Health for specific before preparing the cremated remains for transport by air. Where no legal regulations exist regarding transport of cremated remains, cremated remains in a standard shipping container are usually sent by U.S. Mail, UPS or another common carrier. (UPS, FEDEX and the like will no longer transport cremated remains, USPS via registered mail)

Must cremated remains be buried/entombed?

Yes. Burial options include a family grave in a cemetery marked with a traditional memorial stone or an urn garden, a special section in a cemetery with small, pre-dug graves for urns, or a columbarium.

People do a lot of different things with cremated remains: some scatter the remains, some keep them at home, some leave the remains at the crematorium or the funeral home. Some choose burial or inurnment in a cemetery.

The Church recommends burial or inurnment of cremated remains as a mark of respect for the human body which was a temple of the Holy Spirit, was nourished at the Eucharistic Table and will share in the Resurrection.

In 1997 the bishops of the United States published a booklet called Reflections on the Body, Cremation, and Catholic Funeral Rites that presents pastoral guidelines for Catholics who choose cremation. In part the US bishops say:

"The remains of cremated bodies should be treated with the same respect given to the corporal remains of a human body. This includes the manner in which they are carried, the care and attention to appropriate placement and transport, and their final disposition. The cremated remains of a body should be entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium; they may also be buried in a common grave in a cemetery. The practices of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires (budget permitting). Whenever possible, appropriate means of memorializing the deceased should be utilized, such as a plaque or stone that records the name of the deceased."

In addition, the value of memorialization is twofold:

• Memorials constitute a visible history of our faith community.
• Memorials are an important aid to survivors, providing a focal point for the expression of grief and a place of comfort as survivors go through the grieving process.

Be very, very careful of this, a cemetery (any cemetery) will try to sell you a full sized grave for burial. You do not need one, also, you can save the cremated remains for a later time for burial with a spouse or family member.

 Burial or Inurnment Options

The first selection related to burial or inurnment of cremated remains is really the last selection, i.e. the urn to hold those remains which are returned from the crematory. That selection will be guided by the following decisions.

 In general terms, there are two options for the final disposition of cremated remains: in-ground burial and above-ground inurnment.

I. Ground Burial of Cremated Remains:

•In existing full grave with arrangements for one or more cremation burials and suitable memorialization.
•In a ground burial area designed with smaller graves to accommodate cremated remains and provision for either flush ground or above-ground memorialization.
In the same grave space as already utilized or reserved for another family member's full burial, with observance of the cemetery's regulation for memorialization in such instances. 

 II. Above-Ground Inurnment of Cremated Remains in a Columbarium: 
•A columbarium with an open face (glass front) may be selected; this is only found inside of a building. 
•A columbarium with a closed face granite construction generally will be found in both interior or exterior settings.
•A columbarium with a closed face marble construction will generally be found in colder and wet climates inside a building only.
•In some instances a cemetery may make provision to allow for the inurnment of one or more cremated remains in a full mausoleum crypt and permit memorialization on the face of that crypt for the remains of the individual inurned.

In making the selection of the cremation urn one should keep in mind the location selected - will it be seen or concealed? Does the urn space selected make provision for identification of the individual? Obviously, a glass fronted niche will not do so and therefore the memorialization or the identification will have to be executed on the urn itself.
Burial at a "Catholic Cemetery is not a requirement. DO NOT fall for sales tactics in regards to this. Remember, Catholic Cemetery sales personnel operate on commission just like corporate funeral. Do not be fooled.)
Veterans get buried for free at any "Veterans National Memorial Cemetery in the United States", any of the 121 of them.

What is a columbarium?

A common practice is the entombment of the cremated remains in a "columbarium". It is an arrangement of niches, either in a mausoleum, a room or wall into which an urn or other worthy vessel is placed for permanent memorial. Generally, niches range in price per space from $800. to $2,500.

May I scatter the ashes?

No. "The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires." (Order of Christian Funerals, Appendix II) (Sometimes, this is the wish of the deceased, consider their wishes if they served in the military. The difference between scattering at sea or burying at sea is to not scatter all over the sea, just in one spot)

May I bury the ashes at sea?

Yes. Burial at sea of cremated remains differs from scattering. An appropriate and worthy container, heavy enough to be sent to its final resting place, may be dropped in to the sea. The burial of cremated remains at sea in this manner seems to be a appropriate alternative to the long-standing and revered custom of a traditional burial at sea. Please consult your local government for environmental regulations. (See Order of Christian Funerals, #405.4)

May anything be added to cremated remains such as the cremated remains of other persons, pets or other objects?

The principle of respect for the cremated remains of a deceased Christian embraces the deeper belief in the individuality of each baptized person before God. Throughout history, the mingling of remains has never been an accepted practice, except in extraordinary circumstances.

Who decides if I am cremated?

In most cases you make the decision to be cremated. However, your survivors may decide to have you cremated, generally due to special family circumstances, but rarely against your will.

How do I make my wishes known?

If you desire that your body be cremated you can make those wishes knows in your will and in documents designed to help plan and prepare your funeral. (Self Cremation Directive in Arizona)

Do I have to honor my parent's or spouse's wish to cremate them?

No. but out of respect for loved ones, you will want to do all you can to carry out the wishes of the deceased concerning funeral services provided they are in keeping with Church practice (and within your budget). Yet, you must always keep in mind the therapeutic value to the family of celebrating the full funeral liturgy with the body present. This may significantly outweigh your reasons for cremation before the funeral liturgy.

What funeral rites are celebrated when a person is cremated?

 All the usual rites which are celebrated with a body present may also be celebrated in the presence of cremated remains. The United States' bishops have written new prayers and have printed them as an appendix to the Order of Christian Funerals. During the liturgies, the cremated remains are treated with the same dignity and respect as the body.

The following rituals may be celebrated:

Prayers after Death
This ritual is used immediately after death. The presence of the minister, the readings, and the prayers can be of great comfort to the family. (Order for Christian Funerals, #101-108)

Gathering in the Presence of the Body
This ritual can also be of great comfort to family members and friends. It allows for a time of simple prayer and shared silence. (Order of Christian Funerals #109-118)

Vigil for the Deceased
 If cremation has already taken place, friends and family may still gather to pray. While it has been a tradition to pray the rosary in some regions, the Vigil for the Deceased in a Liturgy of the Word service, which includes prayer for the deceased and recognition of his/her Christian life. (Order of Christian Funerals #54-97)

What length of time is there between death, cremation and the funeral Mass?

The answer to this question depends on various factors, just as in the case of funerals with the body. The place of death, the location of the crematory, scheduling a time for cremation, the schedule at the parish church, and other circumstances impact the timing. Once all arrangements have been made, you should generally allow at least one day between death and the celebration of the funeral liturgy. (that is not feasibly possible with today's churches, scheduling can take up to 7 days)

What happens at the Funeral Mass with cremated remains?

Significant attention should be given to the primary symbols of the Catholic funeral liturgy, as stated in the Order of Christian Funerals and its commentaries. The paschal candle and sprinkling with holy water are primary symbols of baptism and should be used during the funeral Mass. However, the pall is not used. Photos and other mementos may be used at the vigil, but are not appropriate for the Mass. During the Mass, the cremated remains should be treated with the same dignity and respect as the body. They are to be sealed in a "worthy vessel." They may be carried in procession and/or placed on a table where the coffin normally would be with the Easter candle nearby.

The body is always laid to rest with solemnity and dignity. So too, the Order of Christian Funerals provides for the interment of cremated remains (Order of Christian Funerals, #428).


Canon - 117 S1 Christ's faithful who have died are to be given a Church funeral according to the norms of law.

 S2 Church funerals are to be celebrated according to the norms of the liturgical books. In these funeral rites the Church prays for the spiritual support of the dead, it honors their bodies, and at the same time it brings to the living the comfort of hope.

 S3 The Church earnestly recommends that the pious customs of burial be retained; but it does not forbid cremation, unless this is chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching.

There you have it, that's pretty much the law written by the Catholic Diocese. Now, knowing that Jesus was a poor man that served the poor, do you really think that he would want you to remove food from your mouth to accommodate rules that were written by men? My point being, do the best you can to follow the churches rules, but don't take from yourself to the point were it hurts to follow "GUIDELINES". Do what you can, seek guidance from the church and funeral home. If the only guidance they can give you is "spend more money", reconsider the source. 

One more thing, the diocese is now in the business of funeral service providers, yes, they now have funeral homes and those funeral homes must make a profit to support the church, so, with that, ask yourself when you choose to use these facilities if it is in your best interest when your are being sold a $6,500 funeral package, or you are being suggested a simple cremation to accommodate you budget.
Miguel Legaspi
Avenidas Funeral Chapel