Stricter funeral home regulations a victory for dead people -- and the people who love them

A funeral director allegedly tells a family that the county coroner recommended him to bury their twelve-year-old child -- when the law prohibits such recommendations. A mortuary embalms a body without the final okay from the family; in the meantime, the family decides to use a different mortuary. A funeral home improperly refrigerates a body, leaving it exposed for several days.

These are some of the alleged violations a new state law is seeking to prevent. As of January 1, all Colorado funeral homes and crematories must register with the state Department of Regulatory Agencies. (So must athletic trainers, another new profession to be regulated by DORA in 2010.)

The point is to give consumers an official way to lodge complaints against funeral homes and crematories -- and to give the state a way to track those complaints to see if there are indeed widespread abuses in the funeral home industry, as the Colorado Funeral Directors Association has long alleged.

In fact, the CFDA asked for even stricter regulations, arguing, in part, that Colorado is the only state that doesn't license funeral-service practicioners, and thus serves as a haven for bad-news funeral directors kicked out of other states.

In 2007, DORA conducted a review of the state's funeral-service industry and concluded that there weren't enough examples of egregious practices to warrant strict regulations. Instead, it recommended that a funeral director at each funeral home be required to register with DORA. That funeral director would then be responsible for making sure everything at his or her home was on the up-and-up. Requiring registration, which costs $544 for funeral homes and $633 for crematories, would also allow DORA to investigate any complaints.

"This is an attempt to give consumers a place that if they have concerns about services they have received, they can go to to lodge those complaints," says Angie Kinnaird Linn, the director of the business and technical section of DORA. "Whereas before, there wasn't a place to do that."

DORA has been hosting informational sessions around the state for funeral directors and other businesspeople whose professions are being impacted by new DORA rules in 2010. The last session is tomorrow afternoon in Denver at DORA's headquarters building, 1560 Broadway.

Though the new law arguably benefits them most, the deceased are not invited.

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