Philadelphia, PA - Growing concern for loved ones who have passed on has been a boon to the burgeoning death care industry. Still, uncertainties exist regarding the quality of medical care for the deceased. For years the death care market has gone unregulated and that is about to change, according to regulatory experts.
The government has just proposed a rule that aims to ensure that death care systems are held to the same standards as health care systems. "We have observed that death care companies systematically underinvest in quality of care for the dead and believe that regulation is necessary to assure an adequate level of care for our loved ones who are no longer able to voice their concerns," says a government representative. While the rule is receiving strong support by Congress, it is not without its critics.
Spokesperson Vin Reaper of Death Advil - the leading painkiller for the dead - is spearheading the effort to stop what he calls "a deadly rule" from moving forward. "Look, regulation is likely to kill the industry, as most of the players in the market are small entities and have tiny profit margins. Mandating a quality of death care equal to the high health care quality standards set in this nation will make death care a prohibitively expensive service to offer to those buried in coffins. One provision of the proposed rule, for example, would require that death care companies exhume corpses on a daily basis in order to slow the natural rate of decomposition, as this is thought to be too painful for the dead to bear. The compliance costs associated with this requirement are high enough to almost surely cause death care companies to exit the industry for good." And spokesperson Salvatore Di Morto from Club Dead, the only all-inclusive resort for the dead, said that "the small village in which the resort is located will be a ghost town if the regulation is finalized."
One industry expert, Mike James, has a more positive viewpoint. He says that, in anticipation of regulation in the death care market, there is likely to be a major shift towards medical care for decedents who were cremated, buried at sea, or had sky burials. "This segment of the market is out of the purview of regulatory authorities and completely untapped. People are generally regretful for putting their loved ones through such painful post-death methods of disposal and surveys have shown that they are willing to pay a premium for death care services. We're talking economics 101: higher costs of care for those who are in cemeteries will cause firms to switch to more specialized death care services that will yield higher profits. A professional caregiver for a vulture that ate a loved one, for example, is estimated to be only a tenth of the cost of exhumation alone and is a relatively low maintenance service option."
One important challenge lies ahead for the industry if they decide to enter the market to care for the dead who have been destroyed by fire or consumed by animals. Death vitals are essential for helping death care companies determine appropriate death care treatments. However, while the technology to measure death vitals on a corpse is readily available and easy to implement, there is currently no equipment sensitive enough to measure death vital signs on piles of ash and digested remains.
We interviewed members of the community to get their thoughts. One community member, who asked not to be named, added a novel thought to the discussion, saying that "the dead have lost all of their senses and do not even require a minimum level of medical care." He went as far as to say that "even the dead think government intervention is obviously unnecessary."
What do you think? E-mail us your thoughts.
Epsilon McSchnitzel and Shlomo Shlomo contributed to this report.