A recent article published in the Sydney Morning Herald presents a rather cynical view of the funeral industry. The article, entitled “How the funeral industry preys on grieving families” by Caitlin Fitzimmons suggests a Do-it-Yourself solution, dispensing with Funeral Directors altogether and opting instead for “direct cremation”. With a direct cremation, there is no funeral service provided, but, according to the article, the body is sent directly from the nursing home, home or hospital to the crematorium for cremation and the crematorium staff either scatter or return the ashes to the family.

Indeed, a “Direct Cremation” is the simplest, most financially economical option and according to the article, the process involved sounds very simple. However, in the case of a Direct Cremation,  apart from the obvious dilemma of providing a suitable means of transporting the deceased from the place of death, there are a number of intervening steps that cannot be overlooked. Prior to the cremation all of the following steps must take place in order for the cremation to be allowed to proceed:

A written medical cause of death certificate must be obtained from the deceased’s doctor or attending medical officer at the hospital. This can take up to 48 hours after the death has occurred to be produced. Consequently, a suitable, safe location must be found to hold the deceased’s remains for this period.

Once this certificate is issued. A Government Medical Officer must be appointed to authorise the cremation. A written application needs to be submitted, with a copy of the Medical Cause of Death Certificate, to the Government Medical Officer. Upon receipt of the Application and Certificate, the Medical Officer must attend the deceased to perform a final examination to confirm the identity and to ensure the deceased does not present a cremation risk in the form of an implant such as a heart defibrillator or pacemaker. Should such a device be present, the Medical Officer will be required to remove it and provide confirmation of removal together with written permission to Cremate. The Medical Officer will charge a fee for this service.

At this time, a basic coffin for transportation should be provided for the deceased and suitable transportation arranged to the crematorium. The cremation permit, Application for Cremation and the Medical Cause of Death Certificate must accompany the deceased to the crematorium. In the meantime, a local Crematorium needs to be contacted and arrangements made to carry out the cremation. The cremation can then proceed subject to verification of the accompanying documentation and payment of their cremation fee.

In addition to the above, it may be necessary for the Coroner to become involved to investigate the circumstances and cause of the death. This necessitates another layer of complexity in liaising with the Coroner’s Office to obtain the release of the deceased for cremation.

Your Funeral Director is both trained and equipped to take care of all of these requirements for you. In addition, your Funeral Director will liaise with the Department of Births, Deaths, and Marriages to correctly register the death and apply for the Certified Death Certificate which is required to start finalising the deceased’s estate. Further, there is often a myriad of little decisions that can weigh heavily upon your shoulders during a very difficult time. Your Funeral Director is here to assist and guide you through the entire process so you don’t need to be concerned about forgetting something that might delay the process or cause unnecessary complications.

Professor Sandra van der Laan from the University of Sydney co-authored a report entitled “It’s your funeral: An investigation of death care and the funeral industry in Australia.”

She claims that “Upselling is … common with funeral directors basically hinting that if you loved the departed, you should consider a more expensive coffin, which might be marked up by 1000 per cent.”

At Sovereign Funerals, we completely agree that some things simply shouldn’t be about making money. That’s why we are a not-for-profit funeral company. We are not focused on making as much profit as we possibly can, nor are we salespersons. You are guaranteed that we will never upsell as a means to gaining greater sales. In fact, the small amount of profit we do make from each funeral pays our operating expenses and everything that’s left is directed towards supporting local and international community projects that help people in need. And because we don’t report to shareholders, we’re able to focus on what’s really important – you and your family.

Yes, we are affordable. But affordable doesn’t have to mean ‘cheap and nasty.’ We will provide you with an excellent level of service and care, and arrange a tasteful funeral for your loved one to suit your budget.

Funeral Insurance is also under scrutiny and Money reports it can cost twice as much as an actual funeral.

That’s why we don’t recommend it. A much more economical and wise investment is to prepay your funeral at today’s prices. That way, no matter how much prices may increase in the future, your family won’t pay a cent more on the items you have pre-paid when it comes time to arrange your funeral.

You should never be made to feel like you should ‘do it all on your own’ during this time – that’s the last thing you need. At Sovereign Funerals, we are here to reduce the burden and stress of arranging a burial or cremation, freeing you up to begin the difficult journey of working through the grieving process with your loved ones.