Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death

image of the book cover for Final Rights

Two of leading advocates for consumer rights in dealing with the funeral industry have written a book: Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death. Joshua Slocum is executive director of Funeral Consumers Alliance, a nonprofit with over 90 chapters throughout the USA and Lisa Carlson is executive director of Funeral Ethics Organization, a nonprofit that works with the funeral industry to try to improve its ethical standards.

Abuse of consumers by the funeral industry has only worsened in the decades since Jessica Mitford’s landmark expose The American Way of death. Families are exploited financially at a time of intense grief, prepaid funeral money vanishes into thin air. In eight states, families are denied the healing that can come from personal involvement in caring for their dead.

But a funeral consumer movement is awakening. As with natural childbirth and hospice, Americans are asserting their right to take charge of a major event in their lives. Many still want the help of a funeral director-but to assist, not to direct. And many are handling it themselves, with home burials, green burials, or direct arrangements with a crematory. Final Rights provides the information consumers need to take back their rights under existing law, while proposing legal changes that could benefit all Americans who will plan or pay for a funeral.

Death is inevitable. We may not like to think about the details but this blog is dedicated to helping people at that difficult time. It is much easier if you can take some time in advance and help those who will be asked to cope in the wake of your death to consider what should be done. This book is a helpful resource to aid that process.

Make Your Own Coffin

The cost of coffins is often too expensive for those who must pay for the expenses of a funeral. And those fancy coffins are often be pushed on grieving relatives as an indication of how much the survivors care – which I hate. The amount you spend on a coffin says nothing about your love for the deceased. If you have lots of money to spare and you want to spend a great deal of money on a coffin, fine. My father’s coffin was hand made by a friend which was incredibly great – much more appropriate than a fancy coffin, in my opinion, and my father’s.

Here is an article on a Coffin-Making class from Make (a great magazine for those that like to make things themselves).

Forty-five year-old Randy Schnobrich, a professional woodworker in Grand Marais, told me that he’s noticed people are paying more attention to green burial options in recent years

Schnobrich’s course costs $700 ($470 materials + $225 tuition) and participants spend three days constructing a coffin out of inch-thick cabinet grade pine. The caskets are made mainly with hand tools (planes and saws).

“You could obviously just use machinery and blast right through [the project] but that’s kind of not the essence of the school,”

Although the course fee includes all materials, one woman who took the course provided her own lumber. Planks from a pecan tree milled on her parents property were used.

Making your own coffin isn’t going to appeal to everyone. But many would value such a connection to the cycle of life. This option is not only are personal and environmentally friendly but save you money that can be used to enjoy life instead of just burying it in the ground.

Related: Casketplans.com coffin-making plans for between $40 and $45, as well as kits that range from $700 to $1,700 – Cost of Dying Rises Above £7,000 in the UKAffordable Funeral Services

Cost of Dying Rises Above £7,000 in the UK

Cost of dying rises above £7,000

Survey shows that funeral costs have risen by 61% over the past seven years… “As a nation we need a wake-up call. Our research indicates that although there is indeed openness to talking about death, action is still greatly lacking. Steps need to be taken to avert the sort of distress and concern experienced by the nearly one-in-five people who struggle with funeral costs.”

Well said. And we need to look for more affordable solutions that demonstrate love and respect.

The costs increases could have soon been worse but the Church of England blocked funeral cost increases:

The Church of England has thrown out plans to increase the cost of weddings and funerals by nearly 50 per cent after hearing of widespread opposition among the clergy.

Though actually when you read the full article it isn’t as clear as that. The basic fee increased but extra fees were eliminated.

The UK government has a program that may help low income citizens with funeral costs. The government funeral payment includes necessary burial or cremation fees, certain other specified expenses and up to £700 for any other funeral expenses.