Death care industry in the United States
The term death care industry refers to companies and organizations that provide services related to death: funerals, cremation or burial, and memorials. This includes for example funeral homes, coffins, crematoria, cemeteries, and headstones.
The advent of embalming in the normal course of preparation of corpses for burial led directly to the transition of death care from a job predominately performed by women at home to an industry/ During the Civil War, hundreds of soldiers died away from home and the process of embalming aided in preserving the bodies until they could be transported for burial. The process gained popularity after the funeral procession of Abraham Lincoln's embalmed corpse. Early techniques in embalming where primitive: an article in 1898, written in the Journal of Medicine and Science criticized and brought to attention the manner in which the arsenic used to preserve corpses had leached into the soil and the groundwater near cemeteries. As a means of monitoring, and establishing the protocol for handling corpses, in 1898 the first mortuary schools were established, along with the National Funeral Directors Association, which is still the leading industry association today.
A number of factors make this business unique from the customer's point of view, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Funerals are among the most expensive purchases many consumers will ever make; most often, a consumer goes through the decision making for this process once, so that there is little experience, and often few sources of information are used; and those making funeral decisions may be under time pressure and significant emotional duress. Funeral homes are regulated under the Funeral Rule.
In the United States there are more than 22,000 funeral homes, approximately 115,000 cemeteries, 1,155 crematories, and an estimated 300 casket sellers. The total U.S. deathcare industry was $16.323 billion in 2012. Enough embalming fluid is buried every year to fill eight Olympic-size pools; more steel (in caskets alone) than was used to build the Golden Gate Bridge; and enough reinforced concrete to construct a two-lane highway from New York to Detroit.
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- Rebecca, Mead (23 November 2015). "Our Bodies, Ourselves". The New Yorker.
- Federal Trade Commission (2000). Prepared Statement for the Committee on For the Special Committee on Aging. United States Senate (April 11).
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- Statistics. National Funeral Directors Association
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