Unexpected Considerations for the Home Funeral

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In this month’s issue of Smithsonian, there is a strange (and strangely touching) tale by Max Alexander, whose father and father-in-law died within weeks of each other. Alexander buried his father with all the pomp of the traditional funeral. His wife’s family, though, went the less-trod path with a home funeral.

One of the major differences between the home and traditional funerals that I noted when reading Alexander’s story was the price. The traditional funeral cost more than $11,000; the home funeral was less than a tenth of that. Could home funerals soon become more popular? The Washington Post reported last month that due to the recession, people are looking for ways to save money when dealing with death.

At this point, you’re probably asking what this has to do with science (this is a science blog, of course). Well, Ireland’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre has noted one issue that may be overlooked among people intending to give their loved one a home funeral (or home wake): infectious disease. They have just released new draft guidelines for dealing with those who died of infectious disease and note that “risk of infection can be minimised by following good basic infection control precautions.” I’m not going to go into any detail because all of this, frankly, is creeping me out. But I will recommend that anyone who goes the home funeral route, whether they just want to honor their loved one or save a little money, read up on these matters.

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