PHONE YOUR LOCAL TV/RADIO STATIONS AND NEWSPAPERS ABOUT THIS SITE.
These reports/photos/graphics by U.S. media will help them investigate tactics and survey prices of your local mortuaries.
Of the world's millions of Internet sites, this is still the ONLY site that exposes the industry's "TOP SECRET" Casket Wholesale Prices
and 15 Categories of Deceptive Practices secretly used by your morticians -- nullifying their claims of being "honest," "caring" and "reputable."
Here are REASONABLE prices for various kinds of services and caskets:
Your local morticians know this from their textbooks and experience. Yet, to obtain greater profit, MOST morticians and plan agents -- claiming to be "reputable, honest, and caring friends" -- intentionally coax you to join with them in harming your own relatives by using these caskets. They pressure families to "show their love" by buying these caskets (some with "safety valves" or nearly-useless warranties of 25-75 years), and hint at harm to bodies if this type of casket isn't bought -- the opposite of the truth.
AVOID sealer caskets or demand that morticians REMOVE THE GASKETS ENTIRELY or at least NOT SEAL them. (The seals should be removed entirely so that oxygen and air can flow as freely as possible into and out of the caskets to allow normal deterioration. For the same reason, people should avoid sealed vaults.)
A noted pathologist has said, "If you seal up a casket so it is more or less airtight, you seal in the anaerobic bacteria, the kind that thrive in an airless atmosphere. These are putrefactive bacteria, and the results of their growth are pretty horrible.... you're better off with no casket at all." (Dr. Carr, quoted in Death to Dust, 1994, p. 471)
Mausoleum builders say: DON'T SEAL caskets to be entombed. A sealed casket can "bottle up" the evaporating fluids, causing tremendous pressure to build up. If the seal gives, the (body) liquids "come out in a BIG GOOSH," says Sam McCleskey, CEO of McCleskey Mausoleum Associates, Atlanta.
"Unfortunately, a lot of people do it the old way...SEAL 'er up and LET 'ER RIP (burst)," says Bob Gray, sales engineer for Gibralter Mausoleum Corp, Indianapolis. (emphases added) (Funeral Service Insider newsletter, Feb.22/93)
(A "sealer" casket might be needed only if it is being shipped a long distance and there might be danger of bad odor. In that case, you can ask that the seal be removed at the destination just before burial or placement in a crypt.)
(Some morticians fear that families who learn of the harm to their relatives' bodies may file lawsuits against them for offering, promoting, selling and sealing the caskets, and for not warning families of the harm -- and that pre-pay plan buyers may demand refunds, interest and penalties. There are lawsuits in courts now by families who paid high prices for "protective sealer" caskets -- which are now LEAKING BODY FLUIDS and BODY ORGANS of their loved ones which have LIQUEFIED in these caskets.
One woman recently received a $40,000 settlement from a major casket manufacturer for a high-priced casket that leaked. She will shortly go to court with a suit against a mortuary, cemetery and mausoleum for selling her the casket and trying to hide the damage.)
(Mausoleum workers tell of being called to work early in the morning to open crypts secretly -- and illegally without families' knowledge and permission -- in order to move leaking caskets and put "disaster kits" (large plastic bags) around the caskets to hide leaking and odor. Mausoleums often have large fans to blow out the odor in the morning, and often use perfumed decorations to disguise the odors during the day.)
(See more about lawsuits in Document 11B. Your family may feel that you have reason to sue because of what morticians told you about the "benefits" of sealer caskets.)
(SEE MORE about "PROTECTIVE SEAL" CASKET problems, embalming, mausoleums and cremation below, after Pre-Pay Plans.)
Problems: "Non-cancellable" means that you must keep paying even if you can never use the funeral because you move away, etc. "Non-refundable" means that you receive little or no refund and no services -- even if you have paid thousands of dollars -- if you ever stop paying because you need the money for medical or other expenses, an emergency or you move away. Some mortuaries and plans companies have gone bankrupt and plan holders have lost everything.
Consumer groups do not recommend pre-pay plans. They recommend that you select (pre-arrange) the items you want for your funeral, give the information to a mortuary or family members, but not give any money to a mortuary or plan. Rather, put your money (today's cost of the funeral) in a "revocable" funeral savings account, trust account, or "Totten Trust" at a bank, savings institution or credit union, or open a small insurance policy for the cost of the funeral, so that your money is always in your control.
In this way, you earn all the interest (not the mortuary or plan); your money cannot be lost by bankruptcy or cancellation; and the money is always available for your funeral regardless of when or where you need it; "revocable" means that you draw your money out at anytime if you have an emergency or other need. The account can be changed to "non-revocable" status (or originally set up as such) if you need to enter a nursing home and need to "draw down" your assets, but want to preserve the funeral money you've set aside. (If a mortuary only wants to sell you a pre-pay plan, or if a small bank doesn't know about the "Totten Trust" or funeral trust account, go to another one.)
Some salespersons write on the contract the price of the casket you choose, but intentionally write in the model number or description of a cheaper casket or urn. Require that they attach to the contract a color photograph of the casket with the manufacturer's model printed on it, write on the contract that the photograph is part of the contract and describes the casket, and sign the statement. (If you are buying a costly casket, the salesperson can afford to provide a color picture of it, so refuse the sale if they won't provide it.)
Most people who have been ripped off say: "But he was so nice and honest-looking." Even the most crooked salesperson can be nice if he/she is taking several thousand dollars out of your pocket.
Don't sign anything until you have an accountant, attorney or banker examine it closely. Salespersons often make false statements and promises about refundability, etc., which are the opposite of what is in the contract and its "fineprint."
-- "Ask your friends or clergy to recommend a mortuary." -- This is often dangerous, leading you to unfair mortuaries because most friends and clergy know little or nothing about wholesale casket prices, outrageous markups, deceptive sales practices, reasonable price ranges, comparison of mortuary prices in the community -- and many clergy and hospital personnel receive gifts from high-priced morticians to coax them to recommend their firms.
-- "Take a 'stable' friend with you to the mortuary to protect you from deceptive tactics and bad decisions." -- This is dangerous for the same reasons.
MORE INFORMATION about "PROTECTIVE SEAL" CASKETS, mausoleums, body deterioriation, etc.
However, very diluted embalming fluid is used on most of the body so that the body and skin will feel flexible and "lifelike" at the viewing -- but this means that deterioration is hindered only slightly for cells affected by diluted fluid. A strong solution is injected only into the central body cavities. Thus embalming is nowhere near perfect and fluid does not reach most cells of the body. Most cells begin decaying immediately. Books on embalming and forensics provide charts and descriptions of the rate and type of deterioration which takes place day by day.
INFORMATION about DETERIORATION (available in books about death, embalming and forensic medicine)
DECAY is decomposition of protein in an aerobic (oxygen) environment, resulting in compounds with no foul odor.
PUTREFACTION occurs in anaerobic (non-oxygen) conditions and results in foul-smelling compounds (hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen phosphide and gaseous ammonia). It is accelerated in moist air. It is caused by anaerobic bacteria in the cells and tissues which rapidly produce enormous amounts of foul-smelling gas, causing bloating of cells and tissues.
Books about embalming and forensic medicine help you to understand the problem with "PROTECTIVE SEALER" caskets. Every mortician in the country knows about the deterioration and the effect of "sealer" caskets -- and so knowingly misleads NEARLY EVERY family in order to sell the higher-priced, fraudulent "sealer" caskets. In the presence of circulating, warm, dry air (that many mausoleums use), bodies deterioriate by dehydration and retain more of the shape they had while alive. Seals prevent this from happening.
The chart below shows the normal decay of tissues open to air and not touched by embalming fluid. (Sealed caskets change this -- by activating anaerobic bacteria whose putrefaction produces enormous amounts of gas, rapid bloating and destruction of the body, and bursts some seals, causing additional harm to bodies. Seals cause this damage by keeping out oxygen (oxygen impedes anaerobic bacteria) and dry air (air causes dehydration), and by keeping moisture in (moisture speeds anaerobic destruction). Normal dehydration would allow bodies to retain a more normal shape.)
1-3 days . . . Putrefactive odor from gas produced by anaerobic bacteria. 2-3 days . . . Green staining of flanks; noticeable bloating of abdomen. 5-6 days . . . Gaseous swelling and disruption internally. 8-10 days . . Fatty tissue beneath the skin fills with gas; abdomen bloats. 2 weeks . . . Abdomen and all organs swelled and disrupted by gas. Marked swelling of body. Face and neck bloated. 14-20 days . . Blisters on body surface; body greatly swollen, especially loose tissues. Eyes bulge; swelled tongue fills the mouth. 3 weeks . . . Organs and cavities burst from gas pressure. 4 weeks . . . General slimy liquifaction of all soft tissues (instead of dehydration). 1-6 months . . Thoractic and abdominal cavities burst open by pressure of gases. (Unchecked PUTREFACTION eventually results in COMPLETE DISINTEGRATION and disappearance of all body structures, except the bones. Putrefaction is about twice as rapid at 100 degrees F as at 70 degrees.)
(The information in the chart above is from various books. For more information, see Embalming: History, Theory, and Practice, Mayer, 1990; Principles and Practice of Embalming, Strub and Frederick, 1986; and Death to Dust, Dr. Kenneth Iserson, 1994.)
Many mausoleums open seals (although it is illegal for morticians and mausoleums to open a casket without the family's permission) for safety and normal body deterioriation. Many circulate warm, dry air through the crypts to enable the bodies to deteriorate normally through dehydration, which leaves the bodies with more of the shape they had while alive. Other mausoleums allow the seals to burst. Many mausoleums have pipes from each casket crypt to the roof to vent off gas and odor from the caskets, and drains from each crypt to carry away body fluids from leaking caskets (including the copper and bronze caskets with 25-75 year warranties).
Here are comments from a number of mausoleums when asked what they do to prevent damage to bodies from "sealer" caskets and bursting seals:
(Reporters should phone local mausoleums and ask: "We're thinking of buying a sealer casket, but we've heard that some seals burst. Should we buy a non-sealer casket instead -- in order to prevent any damage to the body? Or is there something you can do to prevent the seal from bursting?" Reporters will probably receive answers like the ones above from different mausoleums.)
* (See more about different types of caskets under the price chart in Document 3 -- Caskets.)
EMBALMING: Embalming is a process intended to preserve bodies for a few days of viewing and funeral services. It is done with a weak embalming solution so that the skin retains a "soft" feel, but this also means that the body is only slightly preserved. It consists of two processes: arterial embalming, in which diluted embalming fluid is pumped into a major artery to replace much of the body's blood; and cavity embalming, in which fluids are removed from the chest and abdomenal cavities, and then a stronger embalming solution is injected into them. Normally, the body is placed on an embalming table which has a gutter around its perimeter to catch body fluids.
The embalmer first massages limbs and joints to "break up" the effects of rigor mortis in order to place the arms and legs in desired positions. Plastic eyecaps with tiny knobs or needles on the their surface are inserted under the eyelids to hold the upper and lower lids together. The jawbones are pierced with needle injectors and wires are inserted to draw the jaws together so that the lips meet correctly. A plastic or metal "mouth former" with small needles is often placed under the lips to keep them pinned together.
The embalming fluid is principally water containing formaldehyde in a weak concentration. Phenol is sometimes included to prevent mold, and glycerine to keep bodies moist. Other chemicals may also be included. (In medical schools, where bodies may be used for several months, the embalming process is done much more carefully over a period of several days rather than the two or three hours in mortuaries.) The blood and other fluids removed from the body are allowed to flow into a container or the sewer.
Arterial embalming is usually done in one of three locations where a major artery and vein are near each other: 1) the carotid artery and the juglar vein in the neck, 2) the axillary artery and the subclavian vein near the armpits, or 3) the femoral artery and the femoral vein near the groin.
The artery and vein are exposed and raised to facilitate insertion of tubes. The embalming fluid will be pumped into the artery; the fluid will push the blood ahead of it and out through the vein. An injection needle is inserted in the artery into which the embalming fluid will be pumped. A drainage forcepts is inserted in the vein to allow the blood to flow from the body into the table gutter. The embalming pump forces fluid into the body at between five and ten pounds per square inch. The embalmer usually massages the ears, legs, hands and arms to clear blood discolorations.
Cavity embalming is done with a trocar, a large tube with a sharp end. It is connected to an aspirator to draw out cavity fluids. It is inserted near the navel and pushed in six or eight directions to draw out blood and waste, and then is used to inject strong embalming solution. The body is then washed, dressed and cosmetics applied. The body is then "casketed," placed in a casket.
PUBLIC HEALTH: Morticians often claim they are necessary for public health. The book, Principles and Practice of Embalming, (p.2-3), states: "Actually, embalming ... forms the foundation for the entire funeral service structure (that is, viewing, costly caskets, unneeded mortuary "chapels," etc., and the profits flowing from them--F&R comment). ... It is also the guardian of public health ... Protection of the public health is at one and the same time the mortician's chief obligation and his most reliable guarantee of privileges ..." Many medical experts disagree, saying that what embalmers do has little or no effect on any danger to the public.
CREMATION: Cremation is the reduction of a body to ashes and bone fragments by intense heat. The first crematories were established in the U.S. at the end of the last century.
"Direct cremation" is the term mortuaries use when there is cremation with no viewing (some permit a private viewing) and no funeral or memorial service with the body present. In this situation a mortuary picks up the body, does necessary paper work and an obituary, delivers the body to a crematory and makes the ashes available to the family afterward. The direct cremation price usually includes the normal "cremation container" (of heavy cardboard and wood), the cremation fee (usually $125-200), and a low "professional services" fee.
Laws often require that a body be held for several days before cremation to protect any evidence of foul play. Permission for cremation is usually required from the next of kin, as the spouse or all children. Some mortuaries charge for each day that the body is at the mortuary and for refrigerating the body until cremation.
Prices for direct cremation vary greatly among mortuaries in many communities for these minimal services, for no apparent reason other than the amount of profit desired. (In Phoenix, mortuaries' prices vary from $400 to more than $1,800. In Houston, from $475 to $4,000.) Families should phone mortuaries for their prices for direct cremation, and ask if all of above items are included.
Families using direct cremation may wish to have a religious or memorial service or gathering of friends at a convenient time before the cremation, or do it after the cremation with or without the ashes ("cremains") present. However, families should be wary of a mortuary's offer to help with any arrangements, activities or services. Many mortuaries, if they do anything more than the minimum described above, add a high "professional services" fee of hundreds of dollars, plus a charge for each thing done.
Some families have a funeral service with the body present, perhaps renting a casket (whose cloth interior will be replaced afterward so that the casket can be rented again). Often mortuaries charge a rental fee equal to the wholesale price of the casket. (If a $500 wholesale casket is rented ten times, the profit can be quite substantial.)
After a funeral service (or in the case of direct cremation), the body is normally placed in a "cremation container" made of heavy cardboard and wood for delivery to a crematory. (Although the container costs only $15-30, some mortuaries charge $50 to $200; one mortuary has charged as much as $675. The is no law requiring that a casket be burned with the body in cremation, although many morticians imply that there is a law or that the mortuary or crematory has a requirement that a casket be used.
. Normal "cremation container" of heavy cardboard with wood base.
Many mortuaries have set up specially-designed "Cremation Arrangements" rooms which they have outfitted with a display of high-priced caskets. Any family which indicates an interest in cremation is taken from the regular arrangements office to the special room where the mortuary salespersons hope that they can coax or shame families into buying a casket to burn with the body -- when the money could be better given to a charity instead of to the mortician.
Here is part of a mortuary price list which suggests "Direct Cremation" in which an $11,500 mahogany casket, which will never be seen by anyone, will be burned with the body. (An easy way for a mortuary to make a profit of $8,000 or $9,000 on the casket, and about $600 over the cost of the cremation itself. The wry comment of a consumer is: "A wonderful gift for your deceased mother!. Burn an $11,500 casket in her honor.)
At the crematory the body is placed in a cremation chamber or "retort." The special furnace is usually fueled by natural or bottled gas, although oil or electricity are sometimes used. The entire process usually takes two to three hours. An hour or two is needed between cremations. The intense heat can reduce the average-size adult to about five to seven pounds of ashes and bone fragments in about an hour and a half, although some retorts can do it in half an hour. Efficient cremation without smoke requires an initial temperature of about 1200 degrees farenheit. The temperature can rise to over 1700 degrees, and to as high as 2500 degrees in some chambers which were used for a cremation shortly before.
In the process, the cardboard or wooden container quickly catches fire and collapses, exposing the body to the flames. The skin and hair scorch and burn. The muscles contract and the abdomen and various parts of the body often burst in the process. After the process, the bone fragments are usually put through a crusher to reduce them to very small particles similar to sand.