Posted by: sara | March 29th, 2016
Whew! Who could imagine that North Carolina would be such a hotbed of activity where consumer funeral rights are concerned??!! While I can't say my phone has been ringing off the hook, I have had a fair share of phone calls related to these issues. Two came within a week of each other, prompting me to contact both the National Home Funeral Alliance (NHFA) AND Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) headquarters. Both concerned a daughter or son's rights to their mother's bodies at death.
While one mother is alive and in an assisted living facility, the daughter was told that upon her mother's death, she would be required to use the services of a local funeral home for transport of the dead body. In fact, the daughter has since informed said assisted living facility that they are dead wrong (pun intended), and that she will transport her dead mother herself to a funeral home located elsewhere within the state for final disposition. That's right, folks. There is no state law that prevents you from gaining next-of-kin custody and control of your dead loved one.
Case #2 involved a major hospital which refused to release the son's mother to him because she had undergone an autopsy. HUH? Despite repeated encouragement from me that a)his mother's dead body had no doubt been "closed up" post-autopsy and posed no threat to anyone and that b)the several states he would travel through to get his mother home to her final resting place had no embalming requirements, the hospital kept citing a "policy" which forbid them to release his mother to him. During his second attempt to reason with the hospital administration, not only did they never produce this policy, but they ended up calling the police on this grieving man! In the end, he was forced to call a mortuary service to retrieve his mother, have her embalmed (!), and then pay for her flight to the state where she would ultimately be laid to rest. This was a flagrant injustice, changing the son's ability to transport his mother without embalming and also delaying burial plans. Again, both the NHFA and FCA national headquarters strategized on how to compel the hospital to change their practices and stop denying families the right to custody of their dead.
Both of these incidents led to the creation of the following document, "What to Do When Families' Home Funeral Rights Are Challenged."
So beware any attempt by hospital or assisted living facility officials to tell you that you cannot take your loved one when they die. These folks may tell you that it's their POLICY, or try to insist it's against the law, but they will not be able to provide a legal statute number. No policy trumps a family's right to take charge of their loved ones at death.