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Ten Steps

to

Ending Funeral Debt

Extending duty of care is the first step of ten

  1. Extend the Health and Disability Code to explicitly include after-death care.  Getting doctors & nurses to sort the pre-cremation and pre-burial paperwork is the single most important step.                                                                                                                            

  2. Enshrine the Right of individuals, marae and non-profit community groups to handle the bodies of their deceased without registration or official oversight.  The funeral industry must not have any avenues to monopolise any stage of the funeral process.                                                  

  3. Regulate Funeral Industry Prices and Business Practices to protect the public from over-pricing and dodgy marketing.

  4. Sort Coffin Requirements and Communication of Those Requirements.  Practically speaking, coffins are optional in most circumstances and it is the responsibility of government to make sure people are not led into paying for them unless they are genuinely needed.  Hospital morgues and coroners also need to stop requiring families pick up their loved one's bodies in a coffin unless necessary, and instead offer assistance with affordable, or free alternatives.  

  5. Provide Timely Attendance by utilising nurses to verify and certify death. If a family member or friend dies in a rural area or small town during the weekend, they shouldn’t have to wait three or more days for the death to be certified, or be forced, by the delay, into hiring a funeral director as can happen now.

  6. Dying shouldn’t cost more on weekends.  Weekend cremations and burial shouldn't cost more.  If someone dies, for example, on a Thursday, most people will want to say their final goodbyes on the Saturday or Sunday.  It's not justifiable to charge more on weekends or public holidays.  Weekend costs need to be spread over the entire week.

  7. No district should be exposed to a private crematorium monopoly. The public need to be protected from over-pricing and the use of extortion where there is a private-crematorium monopoly. All districts should have a publicly owned crematorium, or, at the very least, be provided with price protection.

  8. Councils, government departments and social services such as hospice must stop telling people they can’t organize all or part of the funeral process themselves.  People have a right to D.I.Y. a funeral process.  They also have a right to be able to keep costs down. The government and social services should be encouraging this.  As part of this, the process of applying for a Death Certificate (not to be confused with the initial Medical Cause of Death Certificate) should be easy and supported.   

  9. Simplify Probate so, in most circumstances, you don't have to hire a lawyer to prove a will.

  10. Enable Self Responsibility. Individuals, families and communities also need to take responsibility for funeral debt.  This means a shift away from the idea you need the big hearse, the $5000 coffin, the professional flowers and the expensive monuments in order to honour someones' life.  Paying our respects doesn't need to be taken literally.    Travel costs to funerals are a major component of funeral debt, causing untold family stress as "borrowed" credit cards max out.   We need to start talking about this issue too.  The Covid lockdowns reminded us there is another way.  In the meantime, the best way to bring down the financial and environmental costs of funeral travel is through gently letting people know, in your funeral instructions, that you don't want your death to remembered by big travel bills.

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