Article says Oregon “falls short” in death care inspections

I came across a really good consumer information article the other day about the State of Oregon and its Mortuary and Cemetery Board.  The point of the article was an information topic on how the funeral home, cremation, and cemetery industry is regulated in that state.  You can read the article here.

As my headline indicates, the newspaper article headline also says that “Inspections of Oregon’s funeral services fall short”.  However, when you read the entire article it is not because the board is too lenient or the funeral homes and cemeteries are not very good.  It comes down, quite frankly, to not having enough inspectors to do the job.

According to the article, the State of Oregon has 200 mortuaries, 66 crematoriums, and more than 400 operating cemeteries.  And, if the statistics quoted are correct, at least from 2018 data, you could expect that each operating unit would be inspected only once every ten years.  Oregon state law requires that they are inspected every 2 years.  The state had only one inspector and for several months in 2018 and 2019 they had  no inspectors because of the timing of a resignation and new hire.  However, the Mortuary and Cemetery Board is hopeful that they can get back to the 2 year requirement as the Legislature recently provided budgeting for a second inspector.

Again, according to the article, most violations do not come from the inspections but from consumer complaints.  The most common listed are about:

  • Fees
  • Services provided in comparison to the agreement
  • Delays in headstone installation

Complaints also range from big to small and, in some cases, funeral homes self-report the claims as explained when one funeral home “was reprimanded after switching the cremains of two people in 2016 due to a labeling error.”

In another case, however, a funeral home was found to be in violation of laws when they could not provide required paperwork about embalming authorization when state regulators requested it.

The article finishes with some advice to funeral directors and those that operate crematories.  It makes mention that 37 states require crematory inspections and 13 states do not.  However, the article points out that owners should be pro-active and do checks from the industry instead of waiting for inspectors to show up.  Operators of a well-run facility should be comfortable showing potential client families around.

Funeral Director Daily take:  I always got nervous when the state inspector showed up.  However, we always tried to do things properly and keep all records in each client’s file.  We found that just being extremely organized put the inspectors at ease.

When we installed our own crematory I was always nervous about cremating the wrong person.  Because of such, we instituted a procedure that you could not cremate any body without at least two funeral director signatures identifying the person.  Because of the liability involved we have now instituted an additional family requirement of identifying the deceased.

I know how it can sometimes get busy around the funeral home and from time to time you may think about shortcuts to get the job done.  However, when ever I thought about embalming without authorization or cremating without proper papers and identification, I then thought of the ramifications of getting it wrong and waited until all the proper paperwork was in place.

Being the headline in a newspaper story for doing something wrong just didn’t look like it would be a very good outcome for the future of our business.  Think about those possible headlines when you are tempted to short-circuit a regulatory requirement.









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