Favorite Foods Dinner

I read a fantastic article, “Honor Your Loved One’s Memory with a Favorite Foods Dinner” from the Grief Digest Quarterly Magazine. Although born out of a family tragedy, the author, Harriet Hodgson, came up with a great idea and I’m so thankful she shared it with us.

Harriet was helping care for her dying father-in-law when her daughter was killed in a car crash, two days before her father-in-law died. Reeling from their losses, her family decided they could only grieve one loss as a time, and as her daughter was a young mother, all of the resources went to mourning her. The family members decided to have a memorial service for her father-in-law at a later date. Although their circumstance brought about this meal, it’s a great idea for honoring the life of a loved one, including anniversaries of the death, or milestone birthday’s the loved one would have celebrated.

Her Father-in-law’s favorite thing was to have dinner with his family. One of his most famous saying was, “When are we going to have fat and salt?” So in order to honor him they decided to have a Favorite Foods Dinner. There were three rules:

1. The food preparation and clean-up had to be easy.

2. Fun had to be included.

3. The dinner had to be meaningful.

They placed a large photo of “Dad” to greet people as they walked in the door. They used paper products for easy clean up. Harriet typed up some of his favorite sayings and passed them out for other to read, of course most were humorous. They ended the evening with a slide show and photos of Dad with his family. What a nice way to honor the memory of a loved one.

Redefining Dead

Historically the definition of “dead” was important to make certain no one was buried alive. Today it’s important because transplant surgeons need to know when they can take your organs. A recent Washington Post article explores the difficulties of defining death. In the Death & Dying course I teach at Arapahoe Community College I ask the students to write down their definition of death on the first day of class. I save the cards and then on the last day of class ask them to write down their definition of death. Rarely does their definition remain the same. Why, because it’s not an easy thing to define. As we gain more knowledge about the subject we can’t but help morph our own definition. Our society can’t agree when a life begins, so why would it be able to agree with a death occurs?

Article author, William Saletan asks, “How can we get more organs? By redefining death.” At the Children’s Hospital in Denver hearts are taken 75 seconds after death because a heart has never self-started after 60 seconds. But the question is, are the docs at Children’s being hasty, or are the docs who wait two to five minutes too slow? If every second counts why wouldn’t we take the organs after 61 seconds? The key word there is self-start. Hearts have been restarted by external stimulation after several minutes. The important thing to note though is that the parents have decided that they didn’t want any type of resuscitation. Letting the family decide somewhat takes the doctor off the hook, but it can’t be easy for them either. Knowing when to give up on one patient and re-invest in another sounds like a brutal job.

Today death is what you say it is; brain death, heart death, or a persistent vegetative state. The problem is that not too far down the road we will have more medical advancements changing the definition of death yet again. Right now however, the definition of death benefits organ donation.

DORA Division of Insurance Alleges Neptune Society Used Bait and Switch

The following is a Colorado Division of Insurance Press Release dated October 3, 2008. To read a PDF of the complaint filed against the Neptune Society scroll down to the end and click on the link.

DORA’s Division of Insurance Alleges Neptune Society Used “Bait and Switch” to Lure Consumers to Purchase Pre-Need Funeral Contracts

Colorado’s Commissioner of Insurance, Marcy Morrison, has ordered representatives of the Neptune Management Corporation, d.b.a. Neptune Society (Neptune) to appear at a hearing to answer charges that the company misled consumers and manipulated prepaid, preneed funeral accounts in order to skirt Colorado law and maximize profits.

An investigation by the Division of Insurance indicated that the Neptune Society was using a “package plan” offer to entice consumers to purchase a particular pre-need funeral services contract. While state law mandates that 75 percent of a pre-need funeral services contract be held in trust to protect the consumer, the Neptune Society created a plan that allowed Neptune to keep, rather than trust, more than half of the entire plan premium.

“We will not stand for businesses that ignore consumer protection laws,” Morrison said. “Pre-need funeral plans are prime targets for scams because the service purchased is not provided until an unknown date far into the future.”

Most pre-need funeral plans require full payment at time of purchase for funeral services, such as burial or cremation, although the purchaser does not know when, in the future, the services will be used. With funeral plans and pre-paid cremation services running thousands of dollars per contract, Colorado law provided that 75 percent of any preneed plan would be held in trust. That way, should the firm close its doors, move out of state, or no longer offer the service purchased, the consumer could still have most of the money returned in order to purchase another plan.

By reducing the amount actually trusted, through a dual-contract system, Neptune has kept approximately $2.6 million of consumers’ money that should have been protected in trust.

Allegedly, Neptune Society skirted the law by inducing consumers to purchase a “package deal” and sign two contracts: one for future funeral and/or cremation services, and a separate contract for the immediate purchase of merchandise, such as a funeral urn, at grossly inflated prices. Most of the funds from the funeral services contract were held in trust, as required, but the funds from the “merchandise” contract were not trusted.

As an example:
• One contract purchaser paid a total package price of nearly $1,333.
• Of that amount, 55% of the package price (about $700) was charged for “upfront merchandise” on a separate contract.

• Rather than place three-fourths of the entire $1333 into trust as required by law, Neptune chose to place only 75 percent of the remaining $610 into trust.

• This means a customer who had paid nearly $1400 for a preneed funeral contract had less than $560 trusted.

• In addition, the “merchandise” costs were inflated with a charge of $349 for a funeral urn valued at approximately $13.

• The “bait-and-switch” is just one of several charges filed against the Neptune Society. Neptune must also answer charges related to: plan and practice to avoid compliance with preneed trusting requirements, violations of the general provider agreements, conditioning the sale of a preneed contract upon the purchase of a second contract, and, violation of several tenets of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act.

With approximately 5,000 pre-paid funeral accounts in Colorado, Neptune confirmed that fully 100 percent of their customers had chosen the “package deal,” which appeared to cost less than purchasing those same items individually. However, the “package deal” allowed Neptune to put as little as 35 percent of the package price in trust, thereby avoiding trusting approximately $525 per each preneed contract. The amount that Neptune has avoided trusting is close to $2,625,000.

The “Notice to Set” scheduling conference will be held Oct. 24, 2008, at 1:30 p.m. at the Colorado Office of Administrative Courts, 633 Seventeenth Street, Suite 1300, in Denver.

At the Oct. 24 scheduling conference, Neptune Management Corporation and the Division of Insurance may agree to engage in alternative dispute resolution, or a date for a full hearing will be set.

Click here to read the court filed complaint against Neptune Society.