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April 9, 2009

Funeral Home Abuse

Funeral Home Abuse of Deceased Veterans

A Virginia funeral home responsible for the caring and handling of deceased veterans before they are buried at the Arlington National Cemetery is being accused of funeral home abuse by leaving the corpses lying around, unattended and unrefrigerated on garages, hallways, makeshift gurneys and even cardboard boxes, the Associated Press reports. A former embalmer, Steven Napper, who worked for nine months at this Service Corporation Inc. (SCI) funeral home apparently blew the whistle.

Napper told authorities that National Funeral Home in Falls Church, Virginia, had as many as 200 corpses not properly cared for during the time he worked there. The Virginia Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers is reportedly investigating these allegations based on the documentations received from Napper, three other employees and a grieving son, who saw bodies overflowing out of a lukewarm cooler at this funeral home and extremely unsanitary conditions including feces and urine in the room the bodies were stored.

The funeral home has denied any wrongdoing saying that their company treats all human remains "with the utmost dignity and respect at all times." However, one of Napper's photos shows coffins stacked on a rack in an unrefrigerated garage. Another photo shows a body wrapped in a white sheet on top of a cardboard box. This is not the first allegation of funeral home negligence or cemetery abuse against SCI. In 2003, the company reached a $100 million settlement with hundreds of families over allegations involving two cemeteries in Florida. Families accused them of digging up graves and burying people in the wrong lots.

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March 26, 2009

California Cemetery Fraud

Placer County Family Sues Cemetery over Lost Body

A California family has filed a lawsuit against a Placer County cemetery after their loved one's body was missing from his burial plot and another woman was buried in the space reserved for his wife. According to an Associated Press news report, the family of Frank Farinha is suing Lincoln Cemetery questioning their record-keeping practices. Farinha reportedly died in 1947.

The family started to suspect something when Farinha's wife, Mary, died at age 105 and the family wanted to bury her next to her husband beneath a double tombstone. But as it turned out, the cemetery had sold the plot to someone else and when cemetery workers tried to disinter Frank Farinha, his body could not be found. The family's lawsuit also names Placer County Cemetery District No. 1, the agency that runs the public memorial park.

My heart goes out to the Farinha family that had to go through the nightmarish process of trying to exhume their loved one. It is indeed shocking to find out that the place you thought was your loved one's final resting place was not in fact his final resting place! Unfortunately, these mix-ups in cemeteries are quite common all over the country including in California. These heartbreaking incidents that cause severe emotional distress and pain to families not only occurs at cemeteries, but also in funeral homes where all of us expect to be treated with sensitivity and dignity.

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