Funerals Need to Change

A woman with the flowers

In the United States, the median cost of a funeral is $7,640, and most families simply cannot afford such an insane cost of hosting funerals. The funeral industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry that's creating a lot of problems for many families in the United States.

A Good Death

Unfortunately, end-of-life care can be extremely unaffordable for most people, not only in terms of the amount of effort of emotional turmoil that people experience, but it is also extremely financially ruinous for many people. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, seven out of ten Americans want to die at home, but only four out of ten actually believe that they will die at home.

Some people believe that it's necessary for our society to completely change our approach towards the idea of death and make it a much less economically painful movement.

Sarah Chavez is one of the founders of the Death Positive movement as well as the executive director of the Order of the Good Death. These are both communities of people that believe that society should have a much better relationship with death, in particular, they believe in supporting the rise of a much healthier relationship with death.

Chavez states that the central idea beyond our modern notion of death is the idea of youth as we have a youth-centric society, and it has a lot to do with the way that we view death. Specifically, our fear of death is one of the most defining reasons why we have such a strong youth-centric society, and why we fear death to such a large extent.

Chavez further explains that the antiaging market in the United States is one of the largest in the whole world, and the country spends millions of dollars every annum on products such as antiaging creams, hair dye, and other cosmetic products. The elderly in our society is completely hiding in places such as nursing homes and hospitals where they spend the rest of their lives in seclusion and isolation.

Chavez further explains that our elderly are so absent from our lives since we believe that they are a reminder of our own mortality.

The Sheer Costs of Funerals

The median cost of a funeral in the United States is approximately $7,640 according to the National Funeral Directors Association. The cost can be even higher if you choose to have a burial with a cement vault, which most cemeteries in the United States require, the total cost can rise to as high as $8,700.

National Median Cost of an Adult Funeral with Viewing and Burial: 2019 vs. 2014
Item 2019* 2014*
An indeclinable basic services fee $2,195 $2,000
Removal/transfer of remains to funeral home $350 $310
Embalming $750 $695
Other preparation of the body

$255

$250

Use of facilities for viewing $425 $420
Use of facilities for the funeral ceremony $500 $495
Hearse $340 $318
Service car/van $150 $143
Basic memorial printed package $175 $155
Metal casket $2,500 $2,395
Median Cost of a Funeral With Viewing and Burial $7,640 $7,181
Vault $1,495 $1,327
Total with vault $9,135 $8,508
2014 prices have not been adjusted for inflation. * Median Price – The amount at which half of the figures fall below and half are above.

Source: National Funeral Directors Association

Funerals are essentially a multibillion-dollar business themselves, and it's an industry that's currently exploding in value. A majority of funeral homes in the United States are, unsurprisingly, privately owned by wealthy individuals and there is a shocking lack of competitiveness in this industry. The largest funeral home in the United States is Service Corporation International which has over 1900 locations in the United States in addition to annual revenue of $3.20 billion, and the second-largest company in the country, Service Corporation, has an annual revenue of only $316 million. This massive difference between the two largest firms in the country demonstrates the sheer lack of competitiveness in this industry.

The way that companies in the funeral home industry operate is essential that they purchase small funeral homes, especially those run by family businesses or by the community, retain the names of these organizations, and simply install their own salesman and managers to run them. Of course, this process also involves rapidly increasing the price of all of the services offered by funeral homes. Prices can increase as much as $725 for embalming, over $250 for cosmetics, and as much as $425 charged for the use of funeral home space and the time of the staff. These charges alone are nearly $1500, and this before the actual funeral even begins which has its own set of charges.

Chavez explains that often these companies will entice individuals to pay for additional services even when they do not want to. For instance, Chavez notes a phone call that she received from a woman who claimed that a funeral home informed her that legally she was required to purchase concrete to place over her husband's casket. However, there is no such law Chavez explains.

Funeral homes often make these types of claims since they are interested in increasing their own profitability by as much as possible through convincing people to opt for additional services. Chavez explains that these funeral homes are simply massive businesses that profit from people's miseries through ridiculous pricing and expensive services.

Concrete Vaults and embalming are two of the most common features sold as necessities to consumers while they are not strictly required in a funeral. Many funeral homes will, in fact, refuse to allow a body to be placed on display if it has not been embalmed first, and many morticians are explicitly instructed in mortuary school that embalming is a necessity.

In reality, embalming is not necessary by law, and even refrigeration is sufficient to maintain the appearance of a body before burial. Embalming is only considered necessary for keeping a body safe for individuals to be around due to a popular myth that states that pathogens in a dead body are dangerous to public health. In reality, pathogens that decompose human bodies are not dangerous to living people in the slightest.

Funerals used to an entirely private matter, but they have become a massive business that generates billions of dollars in profits for wealthy businesses over the past century. This rise in the funeral home industry has caused an untold amount of harm to the average American family who now has to bear the brunt of thousands of dollars. Many Americans simply cannot afford these funerals, and this expensive nature of funeral homes has resulted in many Americans simply deciding that it is preferable for them to die in their homes than in the hospital or other places.

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