Am I required by law to use a funeral home?

Am I required by law to use a funeral home?

National Cremation is sometimes asked whether the law requires the use of a funeral home to plan and facilitate a cremation or memorial service.  In Oregon and most other states, the short answer is no – the law does not require it. Funeral homes and cremation service providers are governed by both state law as well as the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule, which states that consumers have the right to only purchase the funeral goods and services they want, including no services if that is their choice.

However, although the law does not require families to use a funeral home, most families choose to use one because of the standard of care and regulations around the handling and disposition of the deceased. A person choosing to provide “at home” or “do it yourself” funeral services must follow the same laws and provide the same level of care for the body as would be expected by any funeral service practitioner.  Most individuals and families do not have the facilities, ability or desire to do this.

Samantha Maiden, Service Manager of National Cremation in Tigard, Oregon stated, “Death is already a very traumatic event. Trying to master all the details that a funeral home professional spends years learning, as well as sourcing of all the documents and services that need to happen in a very short period of time, can make this time even more stressful. National Cremation Society’s caring team of trained professionals handles all these important details and saves families a lot of worry at a difficult time.”

In Oregon, families or individuals who choose to forego the services of a funeral home and “do it themselves” are defined by law as being “a person acting as a funeral service practitioner.” As such, they are subject to the same laws regarding filing paperwork, handling of the body, and other laws that a funeral home would be required to follow.

These laws require the use of equipment and facilities that most private individuals do not have, thus, most families and individuals choose to use a funeral home such as National Cremation to provide these services.

What are the services that a funeral service practitioner required to provide? A person acting as a funeral service practitioner must:

  • File a written report within 24 hours of taking possession of the body.
  • Obtain a signed death certificate from a medical practitioner within 48 hours, stating the cause of death.
  • Complete the death certificate using information from the next of kin or best-qualified person and file with the county registrar within five days of taking custody of the body.

As for caring for the body, Oregon law requires that all human remains that are not going to be embalmed to be wrapped in a sheet and, if they are to be held longer than 24 hours, to be refrigerated at 36 degrees or less until final disposition. Unembalmed remains can only be removed from refrigeration for transportation or funeral services and viewing. If transportation time is to be longer than 6 hours, the remains must either be embalmed or placed in a sealed casket. If the deceased died of a communicable disease, the casket must be a sealed metal casket.

Viewings of “unwashed remains” are not permitted by Oregon law. Prior to any viewings, the body must be washed in a disinfectant solution and the nose, mouth and other orifices packed with cotton soaked in the disinfectant solution. Oregon law states that this regulation is not meant to interfere with private family showings or religious custom.

In addition, the person acting as a funeral service practitioner must:

  • Obtain written authorization for final disposition (a burial permit) from the medical professional via a form supplied by the county registrar.
  • Obtain and attach a metal identification disc to the body receptacle and see that the identity tag remains with the body throughout the disposition. Cemeteries or crematoriums cannot accept remains that are not accompanied by this identification disc.
  • The funeral service practitioner must also sign the disposition.

A family may choose to bury the body in a backyard or private burial plot – Oregon law does permit this. However, the person burying the deceased must own the property, have prior written consent of any mortgage or lien holders and the planning commission or governing body of the county or city, and agree to maintain and provide records of the disposition on the property as required and requested by the State Mortuary and Cemetery Board. The person must also agree to disclose the disposition of human remains upon sale of the property.

To help families navigate all these details without having to become funeral experts themselves, National Cremation offers cost-effective and respectful cremation services that allow families to choose the services they want at a cost that meets their needs. You can be assured that all the legal and safety details will be handled professionally and appropriately in a way that honors your loved one. Contact us for more information today.

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Special thanks to Samantha Maiden, service manager of National Cremation Tigard/Portland, OR for her support and contributions to this post.