The Jig Is Up
(The following is an excerpt from the casket chapter in “Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love,” available through the FCA bookstore.)
There is no amount of embalming or any particular casket that will preserve a body in a life-like condition forever. But perhaps history has to repeat itself several times before the industry will stop perpetrating such myths. One of the cases that Melvin Belli won early in his career resulted in a significant sum for a son whose mother rotted in the bronze sealer casket he’d purchased to protect her. Now a Mississippi funeral home and Batesville Casket Company are facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit charging similar casket fraud.
Barbara Osborne had no reservations about spending $4,000 for Daddy’s “protective” copper casket. Two months later when she went to place flowers for Father’s Day—the casket was “stinking to high heaven.” Batesville took four months to respond. A video of the rotting flesh confirmed Barbara’s worst fears.
“Protective,” says the Batesville guarantee that Barbara was given. The Batesville website goes even further: “The urge to keep our loved ones protected and safe is fundamental to all of us. No wonder so many families are comforted by the ability to protect their loved ones with the Batesville Monoseal protective casket.” It’s going to keep out air, water, and other elements, we’re told.
The dictionary definition of protection is “to keep from harm.” Yes, the gasketed casket may keep out any bugs that didn’t accidently get closed inside in the first place, but Batesville doesn’t bother to reveal that—by keeping air out—a sealed casket (in anything but the most frigid weather) becomes a slow cooker that will turn the body into a smelly stew.
Some funeral directors are awakening to the problems presented by sealer caskets. One recently wrote to Mortuary Management (June ’98): “Sealer caskets are in danger of being identified as an alleged consumer fraud that funeral service has been a party to for far too many years. . . . Funeral service should finally divorce itself from this emerging identity.”
In 1988, the FTC charged Batesville with making false claims and misrepresentation. Read for yourself the FTC charge and the final consent agreement.