Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Soldiers complete documentation of Arlington National Cemetery

Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) soldiers, photograph and document every tombstone, grave marker and cremation site in Arlington National Cemetery, Va.

Day or night, rain or shine, these men had a mission to complete.

Soldiers with Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), finished photographing and documenting the location of every tombstone, grave marker and cremation site in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Dec. 23, 2011.

"We are calling ourselves Task Force Christman, after Pvt. William Christman, who was the first soldier buried here," said Maj. Nate Peterson, commander, Delta Company. "The primary purpose of this process is to establish an accountability of all remains in Arlington National Cemetery. The cemetery dates back to 1874 when the cemetery was run by Union soldiers who just had bad record keeping practices over the years. What we are doing is verifying what's on record and correcting anything that's not."

Peterson added the detailed information will be housed in a large electronic database. Over a period of a few months, the task force dedicated numerous hours to cover the more than 259,000 sites spread across 624 developed acres of the cemetery.

"Our unit walked over every inch of the cemetery taking pictures of the front and back of every tombstone. We also tagged every site with a GPS locator with its section and grave number," said Spc. Al Carney, an infantryman with Delta Company.

It was evident for Carney the importance of the completion of this task.

"What we are doing here is for the families of the fallen because it helps pay respect and keeps track of where they lay," said Carney.

Like Carney, the demeanor of every Soldier involved in the documentation process was very focused and solemn.

"This mission is taken very seriously by the Army," said Peterson. "How we conduct ourselves as professionals in the military is the same attitude we carry here taking pictures."

With the process now over, Peterson said he is proud to have honored our nation's heroes in such an exceptional way.

"This is an unprecedented mission because it has never been done before and it probably will never be done again," said Peterson. "What we are doing is paying tribute to our fallen comrades."


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Burial and Cremation Fees To Rise

The cost of burying loved ones in Preston is due to rise, it was revealed today.

Council bosses will hike the cost of burials and cremations as part of efforts to plug a £2.5m budget black hole over the next five years.

While the fees will stay the same for the next year, they will go up in 2013/14.

Today, Town Hall chiefs said the move was necessary because of Government funding cuts – but said fees were being frozen for 12 months because they had risen “too much” in recent years.

But opposition councillors accused the ruling cabinet of a “u-turn” after Labour criticised the Conservatives for proposed increases last year.

Coun Ken Hudson, leader of the opposition Conservative group, said: “It is definitely a u-turn by the Labour group. They gave us quite a lot of grief over election time about what they called the Tory’s proposed death tax.”

The council’s cabinet member for planning and regulation, Coun John Swindells, was due to agree the decision today.

He said: “We have received this 42% cut in Government grant and we were committed not to increasing charges this year because we felt they had gone up too much last year.We have to do it, it is not something we want to do.”

The increase, which will see burial charges rise by 4%, will raise an extra £30,000 per year for the council from next year.

It means adult burials will go up from £400 to £416 and the purchase of an “exclusive right of burial” will increase from £407 to £432. The cost of cremation will go up from £550 to £572. The fees come into force from April 1 next year.

A report on the move said: “For those least able to pay funeral costs, the Government provides financial support via the Social Fund. For those not eligible to receive support via the Social Fund, cabinet intend to introduce a Funeral Support Policy to waive charges for burial or cremation in cases of genuine significant need.”


Monday, February 27, 2012

St. Paul Coffin Maker Aims to Bury On The Cheap

When it comes to selling coffins, Mike Zoff is thinking outside the box.

The 57-year-old Arden Hills resident has just set up shop in a tiny storefront on Smith Avenue on St. Paul's West Side, put a wooden coffin in the window and stuck up a sign announcing "Coffin Shoppe."

And how much is that coffin in the window?

Not much.

Zoff, who builds the coffins himself, hopes to bury the competition by selling discount but dignified containers that start at $225 for the plainest, unfinished pine box. The prices at Affordable Coffins & Artery will range up to about $800 for fancier, custom jobs.

It's still dirt cheap, Zoff said, compared with the $2,000 to $8,000 you might spend for a metal casket at a funeral home. Zoff said his prices are even lower than those of other vendors of plain wooden coffins. Wooden caskets being made and sold by a Trappist monastery in Iowa, for example, start at $1,000.

"My price points are significantly under what I have found," he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "I'm way under everybody."

The prices are even less for the smaller boxes Zoff is offering, like a 4-foot by 18-inch model he built.

"That's a suitable size for a youth or a good-sized German shepherd," Zoff said.

Zoff said he hopes his coffins will appeal to several niches, including people who want to save a buck, people who are looking for an eco-friendly funeral or Jews, Muslims or Hmong with religious traditions requiring a simple wood container.

Zoff's products should appeal to traditionalists. One model he's made uses no metal in its construction. It's put together with wood pegs and has rope for handles. Another model is made of wood siding.

"It's like the cabin look," he said. "We do plywood and cedar."

He also builds tapered "toe-pincher" coffins, the kind you see in Western movies, which are still popular in Europe.

"Some people call this the John Paul design," he said. "The pope was buried in something of this configuration."

Zoff said customers can buy a coffin to be used in the future. In the case of an unexpected death, you could take what's available in the showroom, or Zoff could build something new in about 24 hours.

He said customers can pick up the coffins themselves, or he can deliver them directly to a funeral home in the area. Federal regulations require funeral homes to allow customers to use a coffin they've bought elsewhere without charging an extra fee.

Zoff said he'd eventually like to create a self-assembled coffin that could be shipped to mail-order customers.

He said he started thinking about making and selling cheap coffins about two years ago when his sister-in-law died and he saw the prices funeral homes were charging for coffins.

"People bury a lot of money for a few hours of ego," he said.

Zoff has firsthand knowledge of that. His grandparents and parents were in the funeral home business, operating the O'Brien-Zoff funeral home at Lexington and University avenues in St. Paul from 1938 to 1996.

Although Zoff grew up working in a funeral home, he's made his living as a real estate broker. The coffin business is a part-time second business.

"Real estate isn't what it once was," he said.

Zoff isn't alone in getting into the handmade wooden coffin business. Last March, Jude Collins, a retired college psychology teacher, opened the Duluth Casket Shop, a storefront that sells the wooden coffins she's been building for the past 12 years.

Her coffins, made in a variety of woods, including yellow birch and cherry, start at $1,300.

Mark Harris, author of a book called "Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial," said affordability, interest in green burials and do-it-yourself funerals, and a desire to buy locally made products are driving growth in the wooden coffin business.

"My sense is there are growing number of carpenters and woodworkers adding wood caskets to product lines of furniture, which is what furniture makers traditionally used to do," Harris said. "This is one more piece of furniture, sort of the final piece of furniture."


Sunday, February 26, 2012

'Green' Burials Gain Traction At Ind. Cemeteries

More than three years after his wife's "green" burial, Lafayette's Tom Keiser continues to be comforted when he visits her final resting place.

Keiser's wife, Susan, who died in September 2008 at 61, was buried in The Preserve at Spring Vale Cemetery in Lafayette -- the first green cemetery in the state, according to the nonprofit Green Burial Council in Santa Fe, N.M.

Today, the 1.5-acre site off Indiana 25 North is the final resting place for 23 people, including Susan Keiser.

"This is what Susan wanted," Keiser said of his wife, who was a Marine veteran. "It was good closure for me and our family."

Green burials, which are eco-friendly, have been called a movement, not a fad. Advocates say green burials protect the environment and ecology by reducing use of toxic chemicals, non-biodegradable materials and fossil fuels.

In addition, the cost of green burials can be lower because unostentatious caskets are used -- sometimes no casket at all -- and there is no burial vault. The body truly goes back to the earth in a natural setting.

At Spring Vale, all green burials so far have been conducted by Hippensteel Funeral Service and Crematory, one of five Indiana funeral homes approved by the Green Burial Council.

The green burial process, although new to many, harkens back to a simpler time when people were placed in a pine box or wrapped in a shroud and placed into the ground, often without preserving the body with embalming fluids.

When the Civil War came along, formaldehyde came into widespread use to preserve soldiers for sending home for burial, according to Rich Groeber of Hahn-Groeber Funeral & Cremation Services in Lafayette.

Formaldehyde, a toxic chemical, also is a recognized carcinogen. Green burials are designed to be easy on the environment and ensure that the body naturally decomposes.

A green burial utilizes a casket that biodegrades completely and is held together without nails or screws or hinges. Animal glue is acceptable, but not synthetic adhesives, which rules out some plywoods. Cloth bags or woven baskets also are used, depending on the material.

There are no concrete grave vaults or liners, and crematory urns of cornstarch or mulberry bark are preferred over metal or stone.

In a green burial, open caskets are possible for the visitation because nontoxic embalming fluids are used.

Green burial sites typically are planted with natural grasses and wildflowers that require little or no mechanized maintenance, and natural stones are used to mark graves.

The stone markers at The Preserve in Spring Vale Cemetery are found on site. Engravings or plaques are on the stones. Some gravesites have an American flag or a wreath.

Susan Keiser's gravestone includes the Marine Corps insignia and the numeral one to recognize it as the first green burial at Spring Vale Cemetery.

Hippensteel was the first Indiana funeral home to be certified by the Green Burial Council. Flanner and Buchanan funeral homes in Indianapolis also are certified.

In 2011, there were 67 burials at Spring Vale Cemetery with seven being green burials. Hippensteel has sold more than 50 green burial plots at The Preserve, including some plots to people from Chicago and Indianapolis. Joe Canaday of Hippensteel said Spring Vale is the green burial closest to Chicago.

Since spring 2009, Flanner and Buchanan has had a 5-acre rustic area called Kessler Woods dedicated to green burials at Washington Park North Cemetery in Indianapolis. Barb Milton of Flanner and Buchanan said there are about 25 people buried at Kessler Woods. A few dozen green burial plots also have been sold.

"People are coming from Louisville and Ohio," Milton said. "I ask them why they want a green burial. Some are doing it because of their spiritual faith, while others can't embrace a traditional funeral."

The Green Burial Council has certified green cemeteries in 42 states and six Canadian provinces and is expanding internationally, said Joe Sehee, founder of the group.

"We are starting to grow internationally to share resources," Sehee said. "We're getting more calls from consumers. We're more on the radar screen of the environmental community."

Sehee visited Spring Vale before giving it a certification.

"You could see from the beginning that they care and did it the right way," he said of Hippensteel and Spring Vale.

Sehee said it is difficult to track all green burials nationwide. He said the market demand is there.

"One out of five seniors wants green burials. That's a conservative number," he said. "Someday, green burials will be the traditional burial like it was years ago and like it is worldwide."

Tom Keiser said memories of his wife's green burial continue to touch his heart. He remembers 25 to 30 people taking shovelfuls of dirt to fill in the grave.

"I was amazed at that. The (funeral) tent was about 100 feet away from the grave, but everybody went there together," Keiser said.

Keiser said when he married Susan he adopted her oldest son, David. The couple hadn't discussed Susan's burial choice with any of her or his children.

"My son and I went out there together and he said, 'Yes, this is Mom and this is what she would want,' " Keiser said.

"Two or three months went by and we visited the grave, and he said 'If we never do anything again, we know that we did this right.'"

Canaday and Paul Dunbar of Hippensteel said there are several advantages to a green burial besides its being eco-friendly.

"The family becomes more involved," Canaday said. "It gives them peace of mind. We even give them gloves and shovels to fill in the graves. Nine out of 10 graves are filled in by families.

"We're all about giving families options, whether it is traditional burials, cremations or green burials."

Sehee and the Green Burial Council believe many funeral homes refuse to commit to green burials because they are fearful of losing money.

Canaday said Hippensteel offers a direct green burial for $2,695. He said that price includes the services of the funeral director and staff, transfer of the remains, preparation of the body, necessary permits and transportation to the cemetery. It doesn't include the plot. A green burial plot at The Preserve costs $1,000, said Hippensteel's Dennis Horn.

Dunbar said green burials can be as expensive as traditional burials if a family wants a walnut casket, for example. The price depends on the family's choice of services and products.

"A traditional burial has an average price of $6,700 to $8,600," Dunbar said. "An immediate natural burial with a linen cloth can cost $3,800, not counting the cemetery cost, and doesn't have a service.

"We had a lady, 99, from Americus who spent a total of $6,000. Her grandkids filled in the grave."

The three other funeral homes in Tippecanoe County offer green burials as an option, but they have yet to bury anyone at The Preserve.

Scott Banes of Soller-Baker Funeral Homes said the green burials are more popular in certain areas of the country. The Green Burial Council reports that green burials are popular on the West Coast. There also are green cemeteries in Colorado, New York, Florida, New Jersey, Maine, South Carolina, Ohio and New Jersey.

"I don't see green burials taking over traditional burials in Tippecanoe County," Banes said.

Canaday said there are cemeteries that allow a green burial, but they haven't set aside a specific area for green burials like Spring Vale Cemetery.

Banes also said the cost of opening a grave at The Preserve is almost double that of a traditional funeral because it must be dug manually so as not to disturb the ecology around the gravesite.

Groeber, of Hahn-Groeber Funeral & Cremation Services, said he's had green burial inquiries but no services yet in the "traditional Midwest."

"Some people get excited when they hear 'green,' " he said.

Groeber wanted to remind people that there is no law that requires a family to purchase a vault or outside container for a burial.

"The cemetery sets its own standards because of maintenance," he said.

Sehee said a 2010 survey by the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association showed that 23 percent of people 50 and older preferred a green burial. A 2007 AARP survey reported that 21 percent of Americans older than 50 want a green burial.

The Preserve has wildflowers and a selection of savanna and prairie grasses. The green burial area was planted after consultation with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and from Megan Benage, a rural conservationist with the Tippecanoe County Soil & Water Conservation District.

Benage selected a variety of grasses and flowers, including black-eyed Susans, New England asters, purple cornflowers and Shasta daisies. Birds and butterflies are attracted to the flora.

"Over the years, we will be enhancing this as needed," she said. "Establishment takes approximately one to three years. The planting is expected to look very weedy, brushy in its first year of growth.

"As years pass, it will get progressively better, and soon, Spring Vale will have a beautiful stand of grass. The wildflowers will change in color and composition."

A burnoff is scheduled in the spring at The Preserve to allow the plants to renew themselves and get rid of noxious weeds.

"I am personally enthusiastic about this project because it is a great way to provide more unique habitat types out on the landscape while still providing a valuable human service," Benage said.

"Any time we can work with the land, instead of against it, and find unique solutions to existing problems related to living hand-in-hand with nature, I'm excited."


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Property To Die For

In real estate there is a market for everything, even accommodation for the dead. Location and views still matter. Sydney's land shortage, coupled with an increasing preference for cremation, has led to a growing trade in burial plots worth thousands of dollars.
Costly ...Waverly Cemetery

Advertisements offering burial plots are appearing in online classified ads. Some vendors are taking a more direct approach - erecting ''For sale'' signs on their unwanted graves.

The NSW president of the Australian Funeral Directors Association, Warwick Hansen, said owners were now offloading plots they no longer needed. ''It's becoming an increasing request from families,'' he said. ''When burial plots were selling for $70 to $100 they might have bought a lot of reserved graves alongside each other for the whole family. Now those grave sites can sell for several thousands of dollars.''

The prices of some sites have risen tenfold over the past 15 years, driven up by a critical shortage of cemetery space in Sydney and regional centres as well as the cost of maintaining graveyards to a high standard. For example, a top-of-the-range double plot in Macquarie Park Cemetery at North Ryde costs $65,000.

Those who sell plots often pocket a profit, although most owners are divesting them because of a change of heart or location.

''The other point is people are living longer and they're far more mobile these days,'' Mr Hansen said. ''They might buy plots in Sydney but then retire up the coast or down the coast.

''They find they have these burial plots they no longer have a need for, they're worth a couple of thousand dollars and they'd rather use that money in retirement.''

The owner of two plots at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Leppington, Bill Hayes, 64, is selling them after deciding he could use the money to help his small business. They have been valued at $4000 and he is offering them for sale on the classifieds website Gumtree.

He bought the plots and two funeral plans in 1975 when he was 28, for $1086.

''A door-to-door salesman convinced me I wouldn't have a place to be buried with the land shortage,'' he said. ''Projections were there would be no land. There was talk of pulling up cemeteries.''

Mr Hayes now plans to be buried in Young, where many of his wife's relatives are interred.

Lynne Pramana, of Ballina, is selling two plots at Pinegrove Memorial Park, Minchinbury, on behalf of a family member.

''Her father bought 10 plots altogether, thinking that he was taking care of the whole family,'' she said. ''Circumstances change and the family moved to northern NSW so there is no need of the remaining plots at Pinegrove. Better to sell them at half price to someone that needs them.''

Mr Hansen said burial preferences were also changing. ''Over a period of time the cremation numbers have increased.''

The economic forecaster IBISWorld says the number of cremations has risen from 55 per cent of funerals a decade ago to 65 per cent. This is expected to increase to 70 per cent by 2016.

Mr Hansen warned that every cemetery had its own policy on the resale of graves, so plot owners needed to contact the administrators before putting up a ''For sale'' sign.

''Many cemeteries don't directly buy the graves back themselves,'' he said. ''If people do wish to sell them they might put a 'For sale' notice in the paper, which sounds curious but is becoming increasingly common.

''I have seen instances where people have put a notice on the grave they own to say it is available for sale.''

A company that owns 14 cemeteries and crematoria in NSW and Queensland, InvoCare, has also recorded an increase in people wishing to sell or transfer plots.

''A number of people make arrangements for a burial at an earlier time and then they change their decision in favour of a cremation so the burial space is no longer needed,'' said an InvoCare spokesman, Karl Wolfenden.

''The other point is we are going through a period of tough economic conditions and this may be a way for families to make ends meet at this point in time.''

The president of the Cemeteries & Crematoria Association of NSW, George Passas, said turnover was high at popular graveyards such as the historic Waverley Cemetery, which is also one of a handful in the state that allows renewable tenure of plots in which sites are effectively ''leased'' for a fixed period.

''There is a very good turnover there because people know they can extract a very good sum of money,'' Mr Passas said.

''It has the best view in the cemetery business in Sydney. Views are not only important for the living but also for the dead. It's something that's very important to the living members of the family.''


Friday, February 24, 2012

Cremation Popularity Increases, Memorialization Options Expand

Being part of a community means understanding the needs of the families that you serve. The Restland name has been a part of the Dallas community for more than 80 years and is synonymous with quality service and unsurpassed family care. Restland Coppell Chapel and Rolling Oaks Memorial Center is carrying on that legacy in Coppell and the surrounding areas. For today’s families’ funeral and cemetery preferences have changed, ever-evolving – like clothing fashions, hairstyles and music – to reflect each new generation’s choices.

One of the biggest changes is the steadily increasing popularity of cremation. Today, nearly one-half of all funerals include cremation. So, why are more people choosing cremation? Here are the main reasons:

• Changing of traditions. Some people prefer to avoid the “typical” funeral experience and choose something non-traditional.
• Increased education: people are more knowledgeable about cremation.
• Changing religious theologies.
• Increased mobility of American families.

The choice for cremation isn’t the only rising statistic. Baby boomers, the approximately 78.2 million people born between 1946 and 1964, are aging. The oldest boomers started turning 60 in 2006. More and more of them are making end-of-life arrangements for their parents, plus preplanning for themselves.

Restland Coppell Chapel professionals are aware of these statistics. Dedicated to providing what families want, they are educated on the many cremation options available and can answer customers’ inquiries and better serve families’ needs. Knowing that families look to them as the experts, Restland Coppell Chapel professionals are dedicated to educating the cremation family about their options and offering them value-added services to care for and memorialize their loved one.

Arrangers take the time to explain what’s available. For example, a family chose cremation for their loved one and expressed the desire to scatter the remains. The arranger explained that additional offerings were available, such as holding a personalized gathering and permanently memorializing the deceased with a niche in the cemetery. The family subsequently decided to celebrate their loved one’s life with a gathering, and chose a permanent place to visit their loved one, thereby preserving the legacy for generations to come.

Arrangers should take the time to inform families of all of their options so that they get what they need. They should explain that choosing cremation in no way eliminates the choice of combining the cremation with a traditional or personalized service. Many families know the importance of holding funeral services to help the bereaved family heal and to reflect and say goodbye to someone dearly loved.

Nearly 50 percent of cremation families currently choose to take the cremated remains away from the cemetery for scattering or storage. Because a very high percentage of those who intended to scatter do not follow through after five years, arrangers ask families to consider a permanent resting place for their loved one, a place the family, kids and grandkids can visit and share lasting memories.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Improved Shine On Brightly Website for Hand-Crafted Cremation Urns and Memorials is Launched

If you've attended a funeral recently, you may have noticed the changing trends in end-of-life rituals, especially among babyboomers. As they plan funerals for their parents, friends, spouses, and sometimes themselves, they’re changing the way we memorialize life. Online funeral-related companies are appearing on the scene everyday, selling caskets, obituaries, urns, and more. Shine On Brightly is a unique company that features hand-crafted cremation urns, memorial glass, cremation and memorial jewelry, memorial portraits, hand-bound guest register books, and pet urns. The recently expanded collection features the works of more than 30 artists, and is now available at its newly updated, convenient e-commerce site.
Earth and Sky Cremation Urn

The company grew from a lifelong passion for art, and a true love for people and their stories. Fifteen months after the company was launched, Owner and Founder Adrienne Crowther lost her husband of 29 years. Ten months later, she lost his sister, who had been a lifelong friend. Crowther’s venture immediately became her vocation. According to Crowther, “the opportunity to help people during this difficult time is indeed a privilege and an honor. When someone finds a cremation urn or memorial that reflects the personality of a loved one, it really helps with their healing process.”

Most of the memorial products in today’s market are out-sourced and mass-produced. However, today’s consumer seeks uniqueness and superior quality when making an important purchase such as a cremation urn or memorial. Shine On Brightly fills this niche by providing affordable, hand-crafted products that are made in the US. Outstanding customer service is paramount to the mission of this company. Shine On Brightly offers a much more personal shopping experience than the mega-urn websites. Having experienced major losses in life, the company's owner handles each customer with compassion.

Every product is carefully selected, and is made with care and fine craftsmanship.Cremation urns are available in ceramic, wood, glass, metal, and biodegradable materials. The collection offers a variety in styles and sizes.

The Shine On Brightly collection includes memorials for anyone, regardless of whether the person has been buried or cremated. “This is not just a cremation-oriented website,” adds Crowther. “ We believe that art has the power to heal many of life’s difficult passages, and we didn’t want to narrow our offerings. For that reason, we offer memorial portraits, guest register books, and memorial jewelry. Our customers seek out our products because they offer an alternative to the mass-produced memorials that seem to appear on every other site."

The company is based in Asheville, NC, which is renowned for its community of fine crafts-workers. Since its inception, Shine On Brightly has added artists from many other parts of the country, including Washington, Oregon, Florida, Tennessee, and Ohio. The artist lineup will continue to expand with the company.

Commissioned pieces are available as well as those featured on the website. Ms. Crowther enjoys matching her clients with artists to provide a safe and comfortable working rapport between artist and client to create custom tributes. According to a recent client, “Shine on Brightly took the painful task of facing a permanent loss and substituted it for an enriching experience of actively replacing sadness with happiness through art.”

Shine On Brightly’s unique collection is now available. Orders can be placed online, or by calling 828-348-0455 or toll free at 866-844-4469. Friendly, compassionate customer service responds to all inquiries and sales requests Monday – Friday, 9am-5pm EST. Voicemail is checked regularly during weekends for time-sensitive inquiries and orders.

Crowther's long strings of artistic successes are not limited to her company. She has played a leadership role in one of the country's oldest arts councils, the Asheville Area Arts Council. The Asheville Area Arts Council is dedicated to enriching the community by educating people in the Asheville area about the arts, advocating integration of the arts in all aspects of community life and supporting artists and art organizations. In her former role with the Asheville Area Arts Council, Crowther founded the Arts-in-Education program and served as that program's director for six years of her tenure with the Council.

As the amount of cremations among citizens dramatically rises, Crowther found a business opportunity, merging together individual artists to commemorate the lives of loved ones, in a unique, innovative way. As a citizen who finds herself well-versed in the concept of the arts as an economic engine, Crowther merged together pathways between individual artists and a wonderful business opportunity.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Showing Respect for Departed Doesn’t Have to Mean A Costly Funeral

Funerals are among the most expensive purchases consumers make. A traditional funeral can easily cost more than $6,500, not counting cemetery costs, which could add $2,000.

For most purchases, that's a price point that warrants extensive research and comparison shopping. But for funerals, that rarely happens.

It should, said Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance and co-author of the new book, "Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death."

"You might hear at a funeral home, 'How can you put a price on how much you love your mother?' Well, that's true. But turn it around and think to yourself, 'If I spend according to how much I love my mother, I'd be bankrupt,'" Slocum said.

"We can't show how much we love or respect the dead by how much money we spend on them."

Although the funeral business doesn't usually change much, some new trends are worth knowing about to plan an appropriate funeral and to be a smart consumer.

Cremation: Cremation is becoming more socially acceptable, even by religious groups, and it can cost a lot less than a traditional burial.

Many people choose cremation because they and their extended family don't have roots in the same area.

Family cemetery plots make less practical sense, said Bob Arrington of Arrington Funeral Directors in Jackson, Tenn.

Alkaline hydrolysis: Everybody has heard about burial and cremation, but the funeral industry is in the very early stages of introducing a third option, alkaline hydrolysis or resomation (the name used in Europe for the alkaline hydrolysis process).

It essentially uses lye to chemically dissolve body tissue.

It's not yet a common offering, and some states require legislation to make it legal. (It is under legislative review in Washington state).

But it could become a more mainstream option likely to cost less than a traditional burial; more on par with cremation.

Going green: Green goes for burials, too, but funeral homes have different ideas about what constitutes an eco-friendly burial.

Slocum said his definition of a green burial would exclude chemical embalming, which most times isn't necessary anyway.

It would not include a coffin or casket, just a shroud or simple biodegradable box, like cardboard. He would eliminate a concrete vault for the grave.

"What's a green burial, really? It's about what you don't buy," Slocum said.

Personalization: A traditional full-service funeral usually includes embalming, public viewing and graveside ceremony.

"People are moving the ceremony out of the funeral home and into places like parks and banquet centers," Slocum said, adding that such events usually don't involve a display of the body.

Tech solutions: Funeral webcasts are becoming more of an option, especially when family or friends are unable to attend.

Some funeral homes offer memorial websites where a Web page might include a biography of the deceased, a family tree and photos, and places to add memoriams.

Nowadays, you can even shop for caskets online.

Be prepared
Prepare, not prepay: The single most important thing you can do regarding your own funeral is to have a clear conversation with loved ones about what you want.

Consumer groups, including the Funeral Consumers Alliance, say planning is key but paying ahead isn't, because too many things can change and go wrong over time.

Funeral directors generally disagree, pointing out that you can lock in costs at today's prices.

Know your rights: Consumer rights regarding funerals are dictated by federal law, called the Funeral Rule. Find details

Among the rights you have are price quotes by phone, a printed price list, and the ability to pick only items and services you want and can afford.

Compare: Slocum contends that a sampling of prices from 10 funeral homes in the same town is likely to vary by $2,000 on the exact same funeral.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Option to Trim Funeral Costs for Indigents Meets Some Resistance

Minnehaha County, South Dakota officials hope to save money by using cremation more often as final disposition of needy residents who die without means to pay for a funeral and burial.

A newly proposed state law under consideration this week in Pierre would specify cremation as an option in handling remains of an indigent, but skeptics fear the change would let counties insist on cremation as the only option.

The discussion comes as counties scramble to cut budgets and as demand for social assistance rises in urban areas such as Sioux Falls. Counties, by law, must cover costs if someone dies without money and no family member is able or willing to step up to help. In Minnehaha County, funeral assistance doubled the past six years. The cost last year, about $200,000, was $60,000 over budget.

Switching from casket to cremation would save $500 to $1,200 per funeral and go a long way toward covering that deficit, said Rep. Bob Deelstra, a Republican from Hartford and sponsor of House Bill 1066.

“I think it is a good place to save money,” Deelstra said.

Cremation now is the outcome in about 30 percent of the 7,000 deaths in South Dakota each year. Many church denominations, which once opposed it or kept the issue at arm’s length, now endorse it. But as it grows more common, cremation also touches a nerve. Some cultures and religions forbid it, and families often would simply prefer burial.

House Bill 1066 would insert the word cremation into portions of state law on county funerals, some of which date to 1939, before cremation was common. Counties now use cremation if families agree, so the law would be acknowledging a practice already in place .

“I think this provides clarification,” said Carol Muller, director of human services in Minnehaha County.

But it also would let counties dictate the choice. Minnehaha County used cremation in 55 of 85 funerals it paid for last year, a 65 percent rate that more than doubles the rate of the overall population. Those 55 were family choices, Muller said, while the other 30 were funerals with traditional burial in a casket. The county would hope that in the future they all would be cremations.

“If we in Minnehaha County provide the service, cremation would be the option we would pay for,” Muller said.

“Cremation has become much more acceptable to many families,” Muller added.

The downside of the change is that not everyone agrees.

“We recognize for some people the concept of cremation is something they’re not comfortable with,” Muller said. If someone objects, she said, “that’s going to have to be something we address.”

Tim Wingen, funeral director at Miller Funeral Home, said the county is picking a bad place to save money. A surprising number of people oppose cremation, and this could add to grief.

“It’s not a waste. It’s a need. That’s the thing about death. It’s not voluntary,” Wingen said.

He said funeral homes are happy to provide the service for indigents, and do so below cost, whether cremation or casket, but this becomes a community issue.

“I’m all for saving money, but this is forcing people to do something they don’t believe in,” Wingen said.

Phil Schmitz, manager at George Boom Funeral Home, said the county is juggling its own post-recession budget issues with an increasingly complex population. The law requires a spouse or close kin to take responsibility but it allows distant relations and friends to step in as well.

“We’re starting to see more people who have the ability to pay for a funeral but choose not to,” Schmitz said. “If people abdicate responsibility but still try to dictate what they want, I don’t think that’s the way it should be.”

His concern is families that have no money but oppose the practice.

“If you try to dictate cremation to them, you’re going to have a problem,” Schmitz said. “I’ve never seen that happen here. We’re small-town America. People still have feelings.”

Minnehaha and Pennington counties together spent $286,000 on indigent burials in 2010, or 55 percent of the state total of $518,000. Pennington officials have little interest in pushing cremation . “If it passes, I don’t see it being implemented in Pennington. I can’t see it for the hassle it would create,” said Ron Buskerud, a county commissioner in Rapid City.

Cindy Heiberger, a Minnehaha County commissioner, favors the change as a cost saver. The county would work out details.

“The commission will have to have a discussion about it,” she said.

Full-service funerals can run $7,000 to $10,000 in Sioux Falls. A cremation with no funeral can run $2,900, Wingen said. The practice involves burning a body four hours at 1,800 degrees inside a chamber, then presenting the family a container with 8 to 10 pounds of bone ash. If a family elects to have the deceased lie in state beforehand, with the body in a casket for visitation and a memorial service, that can push cremation above $4,000.

Indigent services come at a discount. Minnehaha County pays $2,250 for a funeral plus about $1,000 for a protective liner and opening and closing the grave.

The county pays $2,250 for a cremation or 54 percent of the billed charge, whichever is less.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Alaska Airlines Ends Decades-Old Prayer Card Tradition

Alaska Airlines, America's seventh-largest carrier in terms of passenger traffic, said on Wednesday that it would end a decades-old tradition of handing out prayer cards with its in-flight meals.
In this handout provided by Alaska Airlines, prayer cards

The prayer cards, which the Seattle-based airline began offering in the 1970s after an executive spotted them on another airline, were intended to serve as a marketing strategy and to put passengers at ease, a spokeswoman said.

The airline sent an e-mail to its frequent flyers on Wednesday explaining the change, which took effect February 1.

"This difficult decision was not made lightly. We believe it's the right thing to do in order to respect the diverse religious beliefs and cultural attitudes of all our customers and employees," Alaska Air Group Chairman and CEO Bill Ayer and Alaska Airlines President Brad Tilden wrote to customers.

"Religious beliefs are deeply personal and sharing them with others is an individual choice."

The quotes came from the Book of Psalms, part of both Jewish and Christian tradition, such as Psalm 118, "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever."

The airline has offered meals only on flights longer than four hours and, since 2006, only to first-class passengers - up to 16 people per flight. The airline carries 16.5 million passengers per year.

The decision prompted dozens of comments on the airline's Facebook page, mostly from people expressing disappointment with the change.

Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said the company's leaders made the decision last fall, after several years of reviewing the rise in customer complaints.

"The idea of removing the card had come up several times over the past few years and prompted thoughtful discussion," she said. "When the issue came up again last fall, after carefully considering all sides, it was agreed that eliminating the card was simply the right thing to do."

Egan could not say whether the rise in complaints was related to limiting the distribution of the cards to first-class passengers.

"Over the years, we've received comments from customers who were comforted by the card, but many others felt as though religion was not appropriate on an airplane and preferred not to receive one," she said.

"We've seen an uptick in the number of passengers who just simply don't appreciate getting a prayer card on the meal tray."


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cremation Unacceptable, Scholar Says

PAKISTAN Air has reduced the cost of returning home the bodies of the five people who died as a result of last week's tragic house fire on Woodlark Place.

Instead of the $60,000 it was going to cost, the price has been reduced to $26,000.

As the airline charges by weight, it might be even cheaper to cremate the bodies and send back the ashes, but that's not an option for Hamid Farooq, an observant Muslim and the grieving sole survivor of his family here. Islam forbids cremation.

According to the Islamic faith, dead bodies are to be washed, wrapped in a white shroud and buried as quickly as possible.

Cremation is not permitted, as it is considered dishonourable to the dead and because of the Muslim belief that bodies will be resurrected on the day of judgment.

Says Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto: "In Islam, funeral rites and practices have been prescribed by the divine law, in accordance with the dictates of Allah.

"According to this law... burying the dead has been the prescribed method of conveying the deceased to their graves.

"We have no mention anywhere that cremation was acceptable in any of the previous dispensations from Allah."

In keeping with the spirit of the Qur'an, the Muslim holy book, and in accordance with Muslim scholars, "it is necessary for us to treat the human body with the utmost of respect, not only when a person is alive, but also when dead," he said.

"Incinerating the corpse... is considered sacrilege and abhorrent and, therefore, forbidden according to Islam."


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

House Members Question Why No One Has Been Prosecuted for Mismanagement At Arlington Cemetery

Members of Congress on Friday questioned why nobody has been prosecuted as part of a criminal investigation of mismanagement at Arlington National Cemetery, nearly three years after reports of problems that included misidentified graves first surfaced in the press.

“We are years into this and to my knowledge not a single person has been punished in any way” for one of the worst scandals in the nearly 150-year history of the cemetery, said Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., at Friday’s hearing.

Following published reports in 2009 of misidentified graves and a scathing Army audit in 2010, the cemetery’s two top officials, Superintendent John Metzler and deputy Thurman Higginbotham, were forced out. The new management team, under Executive Director Kathryn Condon and Superintendent Patrick Hallinan, is in the midst of a painstaking, grave-by-grave review of the nearly 260,000 sites and markers to ensure that the dead are properly accounted for.

Thus far, the review has turned up no further problems of misidentified graves. But it has identified potentially thousands of relatively minor problems, like misspelled names or spouses who were not properly recognized on grave stones because of historical peculiarities in how the cemetery accounted for people over its long history.

The Army’s inspector general, Lt. Gen. Peter Vangjel, said the Army’s Criminal Investigations Division has completed its probe of the mismanagement at Arlington, and said a decision now rests with the Department of Justice on whether anyone should be prosecuted.

A spokesman for CID, though, said Friday evening that the agency’s investigation remains “open and ongoing.”

Peter Carr, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, which has jurisdiction over Arlington, declined to comment Friday. It is not uncommon for federal grand jury investigations to take multiple years.

Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., called the lack of any prosecution thus far “difficult to believe and unacceptable.”

“All of us feel like a significant amount of time has passed where these investigations should have reached their conclusions,” he said.

A call to Higginbotham’s home went unanswered. Metzler referred calls to his attorney, who declined comment.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

McCaskill: Arlington Cemetery Improved But Work Remains in Tracking Graves

Cemetery issued a statement saying that the $12 million discussed in the hearing has been "fully accounted for" and was part of $26.8 million "obligated but not disbursed."
Arlington National Cemetery

WASHINGTON • Army officials said this afternoon that relatives of those buried at Arlington National Cemetery soon will be able to locate graves using smart phones, a dramatic improvement since problems were discovered in 2010.

Nonetheless, the cemetery still is working to confirm information for 62,000 burial sites, officials testified at a Senate hearing.

Also, the Army is recalculating the true number of people interred at Arlington, which is more than 400,000 rather than 330,000, the estimate used over the years.

In addition, officials acknowledged that they remain mystified as to the whereabouts of $12 million appropriated to Arlington in recent years, among accounting problems the Army discovered.

Nonetheless, Sen. Claire McCaskill, who chaired the Senate hearing, said she believes that significant strides have been made since revelations of gross mismanagement of a cemetery that is hallowed ground to many Americans.

"We've made a lot of progress in the last 18 months. We're not there yet," she said.

McCaskill, D-Mo., became the Senate's main watchdog over the cemetery after disclosure that hundreds of graves there were unmarked, wrongly identified or mislabeled on maps. She engineered legislation requiring reports to Congress, and the hearing Wednesday by her Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight was another in a series examining progress.

Kathryn Condon, executive director of the Army National Cemeteries Program, said Arlington is able now to confidently identify information for 210,076 graves for veterans and family members and that cross-checking is underway elsewhere at the 624-acre cemetery in northern Virginia.

A significant problem identified in 2010 was the lack of a computerized grave-tracking system despite expenditures of as much as $8 million to technology companies.

In coming months, Condon said, relatives will be able to find graves via GPS on computers or smart phones and obtain maps printed at kiosks in the cemetery.

"Arlington has made monumental changes the last 19 months and we continue to move forward each and every day, capturing our progress with repeatable processes and predictable results," she said.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., told the officials that "rebuilding the trust is going to be a tall task."

McCaskill outlined several key steps that remain, principally documenting information for the 62,000, making information available to the public and establishing better oversight of outside contracts.

McCaskill said she would continue pressing for an accounting of the missing $12 million, part of discrepancies in a recent audit.

"I don't think there has been any indication of people walking away with money. It was just incompetence," she said.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Arlington Cemetery Disputes Reports, says $12 Million Isn't Missing

Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday strongly disputed news reports, based on federal audits, that the cemetery could not account for $12 million that had been allocated to it between 2004 and 2010.

In a statement, the cemetery said that it had “fully accounted for these funds” and that “as part of the process of instituting new financial management controls and oversight, Arlington National Cemetery’s resource managers meticulously reviewed years of financial records and recovered funds that were sent to Department of Defense agencies that support the cemetery.”

The cemetery released its statement a day after a Senate subcommittee hearing during which Army officials were questioned about the $12 million in unspent funds identified by the Army inspector general. During the hearing, cemetery officials did not dispute the figure and did not provide any additional information about their efforts to reclaim unspent funds.

Afterward, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), chairwoman of the hearing, told reporters that she was concerned that the cemetery could not account for the $12 million, which she said was the result of “gross mismanagement” by the cemetery’s previous leadership.

On Thursday, however, cemetery officials said that since the report was issued in September, they have been able to recover $12 million by continuing to reconcile contracts for work and services with the federal agencies in charge of dispersing those funds.

McCaskill was not entirely satisfied.

“While I understand that Arlington management is now indicating that the money has been located, as a former auditor I will not be satisfied until outside auditors confirm this information,” she said in a statement, promising to “continue to track progress and monitor outside audits, until every gravesite is checked, and every dollar accounted for.”

In an interview, Jennifer Lynch, a cemetery spokeswoman, said congressional leaders, officials with the inspector general’s office and federal auditors had been briefed on how the cemetery was going about reclaiming and accounting for the millions of dollars of unspent money.

She said that the auditors “are confident we’re on the right track” and that they are scheduled to reexamine the cemetery’s books in June to make sure everything is accounted for. In all, the cemetery said it had recovered $26.7 million.

Officials from the Army Audit Agency and the inspector general’s office could not be reached for comment.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Congressmen Question Pace of Probe at Arlington

Members of Congress on Friday questioned why nobody has been prosecuted as part of a criminal investigation of mismanagement at Arlington National Cemetery, nearly three years after reports of problems that included misidentified graves first surfaced in the press.

"We are years into this and to my knowledge not a single person has been punished in any way" for one of the worst scandals in the nearly 150-year history of the cemetery, said Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., at Friday's hearing.

Following published reports in 2009 of misidentified graves and a scathing Army audit in 2010, the cemetery's two top officials, Superintendent John Metzler and deputy Thurman Higginbotham, were forced out. The new management team, under Executive Director Kathryn Condon and Superintendent Patrick Hallinan, is in the midst of a painstaking, grave-by-grave review of the nearly 260,000 sites and markers to ensure that the dead are properly accounted for.

Thus far, the review has turned up no further problems of misidentified graves. But it has identified potentially thousands of relatively minor problems, like misspelled names or spouses who were not properly recognized on grave stones because of historical peculiarities in how the cemetery accounted for people over its long history.

The Army's inspector general, Lt. Gen. Peter Vangjel, said the Army's Criminal Investigations Division has completed its probe of the mismanagement at Arlington, and said a decision now rests with the Department of Justice on whether anyone should be prosecuted.

A spokesman for CID, though, said Friday evening that the agency's investigation remains "open and ongoing."

Peter Carr, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, which has jurisdiction over Arlington, declined to comment Friday. It is not uncommon for federal grand jury investigations to take multiple years.

Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., called the lack of any prosecution thus far "difficult to believe and unacceptable."

"All of us feel like a significant amount of time has passed where these investigations should have reached their conclusions," he said.

A call to Higginbotham's home went unanswered. Metzler referred calls to his attorney, who declined comment.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

VA Finds Headstone, Burial Errors At Cemeteries

The Department of Veterans Affairs has found scores of misplaced headstones and at least eight cases of people buried in the wrong places at several military cemeteries across the country.

The review by the VA's National Cemetery Administration follows the revelation of widespread burial problems at Arlington National Cemetery, which touched off congressional inquiries and a criminal investigation.

After the scandal at Arlington, which included mismarked and unmarked graves and people buried in the wrong spots, some veterans groups and members of Congress had called for the cemetery, which is run by the Army, to be transferred to the VA.

Although many of the errors at Arlington were caused by an antiquated paper-record system, VA officials said the problems at seven of its national cemeteries were largely the result of sloppy work during renovations. Headstones and markers were temporarily removed from the ground and reinserted in the wrong places.

Staff members at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio were testing the accuracy of a new cemetery map in July, for example, and realized that 47 markers were one space over from where they were supposed to be.

The problem, they discovered, arose from a 2004 project to regrade the soil and realign the markers, which tend to shift as the ground moves. The markers were lifted and put back one plot away from the correct grave site.

The error resulted in four people being buried in the wrong places. To save space at sought-after national cemeteries, family members are typically buried in the same plot. Because the headstones were in the wrong spots, some people were not buried with their loved ones.

A similar problem was discovered in November at Houston National Cemetery. In 2002, after a similar renovation, 14 grave markers were put in the wrong places. No one noticed the error at the time. A person was then buried in what officials thought was a family member's grave site; it was actually one plot over.

Glenn Powers, the National Cemetery Administration's deputy undersecretary for field operations, said the VA is working to put all headstones in the right places and attempting to contact affected families to explain and apologize.

In addition to the cemeteries in Texas, he said, problems have been discovered at national burial grounds in Ohio, New Mexico, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The cemetery administration is waiting on reports from Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno and San Francisco National Cemetery at the Presidio.

Cathy McCall, director of both cemeteries, said that because of the size of the San Bruno site and because realignments have taken place at various locations, checks of the headstones will not be completed for another two weeks or so. Workers are checking daily, she said, but have not yet discovered any problems.

The audit, which was ordered in October, included only sections of cemeteries that had undergone renovations in the past decade. In all, the VA checked 1.3 million grave sites in 85 of its 131 cemeteries. It also checked graves at Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio.

Powers said that once the initial survey is complete, he will order a more comprehensive review of every section of every cemetery. He said he could not rule out further problems.

"We can't be certain until we check them," he said.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Our National Cemetery Administration

When news broke of improper burial practices at Arlington National Cemetery, Americans across the country reacted with anger and disbelief that our most hallowed grounds had been haphazardly managed. Those sentiments were on full public display here in Congress, especially so at the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee—the representative voice for veterans on Capitol Hill.

How could such negligence pervade Arlington, the final resting place for hundreds of thousands of men and women who have defended this nation? In June 2010, questions about the practices and procedures were finally answered—the blame falling squarely on decades-long mismanagement by senior cemetery leadership. Recommendations were made and implemented to ensure that history would not repeat itself at Arlington, and we have finally turned a corner this year under new management, with improvements to the process of burying our nation’s veterans occurring daily.

That will never excuse, however, the indescribable pain endured by the affected families of the fallen who had to experience, again, the interment of their loved ones as cemetery officials replaced and appropriately marked misplaced remains.

We must, therefore, remain vigilant in our oversight in order to prevent further mishaps at Arlington and throughout VA’s National Cemetery Administration (NCA).

Unfortunately, this past week, a recent audit of select veterans’ cemeteries revealed that more than 200 graves were marked with the wrong gravestone and eight veterans were buried in the wrong gravesites. We commend VA for discovering this problem and taking corrective actions; however, when dealing with something as sacred as tombs of our veterans, a 99% success rate does not cut it. Our veterans and their families deserve nothing less than 100% when it comes to honoring them for eternity.

The committee has therefore called on VA and the NCA to complete a full audit of over 3 million veterans’ gravesites at all 131 NCA cemeteries across the country. We are personally horrified these mistakes have occurred and will investigate how these problems happened in the first place. We will also take the appropriate steps to ensure VA puts the proper procedures and oversight in place so that this too never happens again.

When we examined what happened at Arlington, we learned that the system was fraught with poor record keeping, inept processes, and a general laziness—characteristics that do not uphold the respect and dignity owed our veterans. We cannot let that happen again at any one of veteran cemeteries.

Although the NCA has long upheld the highest of standards for caring for our veterans unparalleled in the VA system—which gives us comfort that they will overcome this—the families of those affected must be assured immediately that their loved one is at peace immediately.

We wish to extend our deepest sympathies to the families of those affected by these circumstances. Their loved ones fought for this country, and many lost their lives doing so. We must never forget that we owe a debt which can never be repaid—which is why we must strive for perfection on their behalf.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Burial, Cremation Or Donation

While cultural, religious or personal beliefs may stop many people from contemplating such a thing, for others, the opportunity to do something useful with their body can be extremely attractive. And there can be lots of uses - from medical education and research to producing anatomical specimens and surgical training.
Bodies donated typically embalmed to preserve the
tissues, or frozen for use in surgical training

In New South Wales and most other states, when it comes to donating your body there are a number of places you can approach - from universities to specific associations.

In South Australia it's a little easier, with one central body operating out of the University of Adelaide.

Manager of the Ray Last Anatomy Laboratories at the University of Adelaide, Wesley Fisk, joined Mornings Presenter Angela Owens to discuss the issue.

"In South Australia at the moment, we've got around 6,500 people registered on our books - as intending to donate. That equates to around 80 donors per year but of course with increasing demands for surgical training, we're actually looking to increase those numbers over coming years," Mr Fisk said.

But not everyone may be eligible.

Mr Fisk said there are a number of factors that can affect whether or not an institution accepts a donation.

"The first couple being gross obesity or severe emaciation...that's because we're trying to teach the normal structure and function of the human body so that when students see the abnormal structures, or pathologies, they actually can recognise this. The second reason as to why we wouldn't accept is infective processes because the health and safety of our staff and students is paramount. The third one is the time from death to the time we actually receive the body. Because most bodies are actually embalmed, and that process requires the body to be in a good condition, we really have a time limit of around 3 days from the time of death to the time we can accept."

So how does body donation differ from organ donation?

"Here in South Australia, the donation of a body to the university is a total and unconditional donation. So really, you're giving the body over to the university to be used in whatever way we deem most beneficial to the advancement of science. That means that the body could be used in primarily one of four streams; either for undergraduate dissection, surgical training - which is a growing area at the moment because it's the only place where surgeons can actually practice procedures prior to performing it on live patients, there's research - universities and bodies donated to universities are the only source of human research material after death. Also, the preparation of teaching specimens, that's the fourth way that they can be used. These are long term teaching specimens, where part of the body is dissected to demonstrate the relationship of structures and vessels and that way those specimens can be kept for the next 10, 15 or in the cases of museum pots, they could be kept for the next 100 years."


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Man who Sold Cremation Memorial Plaques Stolen from Churchyard is Jailed

A man who sold memorial plaques stolen from a church yard for scrap metal has been jailed for six months.

The court heard families were distraught after the £140 panels marking where they scattered their cremated relatives’ ashes were taken.

Nathan Hallsworth, 26, admitted handling stolen goods but said he had not known what they were.

Hallsworth, of Birstall, West Yorks, was caught after selling 11kg of dented brass and gilded metal to a scrap merchant in September.

Recorder Richard Woolfall warned others involved also faced jail after hearing 170 plaques, worth £25,000, were taken from the ­remembrance garden at St Mary’s Church in Mirfield, West Yorks.

He told Leeds crown court: “Anyone involved in the theft and handling of memorial plaques can expect a significant custodial sentence.

“Theft of items with such a high sentimental value is a very serious crime.”

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