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RENT A CASKET FOR VIEWING A BODY BEFORE CREMATION

Published: Thursday, March 24 1994 12:00 a.m. MST

Dear Abby: "An Avid Reader in Woonsocket, R.I." wrote you about a funeral home that charged $1,200 for a casket when the deceased was to have been cremated: Perhaps you didn't know that if the deceased is to be cremated, it is possible to rent a casket for the viewing. I have two experiences with this - one in Florida, where the rental was $500, and one in Rhode Island, where we paid $1,200. (The cost covered the use and refurbishing for later use by someone else.)

The $700 difference is easily explained. In Florida, the funeral home had one casket that was used only for rental. In Rhode Island, we were allowed to choose what we wanted, and we chose something a little more elaborate.I have spoken to many people who have never heard of this practice. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to inform your readers.

- Another Avid Reader

in Newport, R.I.

Dear Another Avid Reader: Perhaps you're right. Yours was one of many letters sparked by that column. I checked with John Blake, executive director of the Continental Association of Funeral and Memorial Societies, who informed me that the average price range for casket rental is between $400 and $600.

Dear Abby: In response to the couple who was burned up over the cost of a cremation casket: Many families purchase a casket when choosing cremation for a loved one. The casket containing the body is placed in the retort (cremation chamber) and will be cremated with the body. Our statistics show that approximately 17 percent to 20 percent of all cremations in the United States include a casket.

Many funeral directors offer rental caskets to be used for visitations and religious services. The body is then cremated in an inexpensive, combustible, closed, leakproof container.

- Jack M. Springer,

Cremation Association

of North America

Dear Mr. Springer: Those who wish to burn the casket along with the deceased will be pleased to know they are in good company. However, the rest should know that for a cremation, all that is needed is an original combustible container, which costs approximately $50. If you don't have a viewing, only the combustible container is necessary.

Dear Abby: I am the wife of a funeral director and want to set you and your readers straight. You are correct that the FTC prohibits funeral directors from telling customers that cremation requires a casket. However, you failed to tell your readers that the crematory requires a container of some sort for the protection of their staff. (These containers normally cost $125.)

You made it sound like all funeral directors are crooks when you said, "If the funeral director misleads a customer and sells him (or her) a casket, he is in violation of federal law." My husband always explains the FTC law, but has to explain the crematory requirements.

When people use our services, they are not always in the best of shape emotionally. They are dealing with the shock of their loss and don't always hear what has been told to them. An experienced funeral director will take time to explain the correct procedures whether he is dealing with a full funeral service or a cremation.

We live in Minnesota, and all the cremation facilities require a container for cremation.

- Kris Markham

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