Funeral CostsIn a recent article by Melody Simmons (Sept...


October 05, 1994

Funeral Costs

In a recent article by Melody Simmons (Sept. 21), the plight of family members who have lost a loved one and must arrange for burial was vividly depicted.

As often is the case, however, The Sun has relied on one-sided sensationalism designed to impinge upon the reader's emotions.

Undoubtably, many families suffer a financial burden due to the necessity to bury a loved one unexpectedly.

Miss Simmons states how family and friends "debated with officials of the funeral home and cemetery over funeral and burial contracts laden with itemized costs."

Her article goes on to state that some families are asked to make monthly payments to funeral homes; that some bodies are "turned over to the University of Maryland's anatomy board because the family cannot afford funeral expenses;" that unless one is on welfare, no public funds are available, and those on public assistance are eligible for a $650 grant toward burial costs.

Although her article appears (I use that word generously) well-intended, it is clearly biased reporting.

No mention is made of the 1984 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruling requiring funeral homes to present a "general price list" detailing 17 itemized goods and services available to families. The FTC outlines specifically what language will be used in the price list.

This method of pricing was enacted for the protection of the consumer and, indeed, works.

Most funeral directors, including the funeral home mentioned in the article, work diligently to keep their customers informed and provide a decent service for the deceased.

Frequently, funeral homes will allow families to pay over a period of months. What other businesses will extend credit to individuals during a real time of need without a credit history review?

Often funeral homes in Baltimore City perform a funeral for those on public assistance for $650 when just the casket may cost over $300. This is charitable work.

It is time for federal, state and metropolitan governments to increase the allowance from $650 to a cost-based system where a funeral home will at least cover overhead and break even.

Funeral directors, particularly in the city, are dedicated, caring, professionals who attempt to serve their community with utmost integrity and concern. It is unfair to them and to the public to depict funeral directors in a cynical light. . .

Marc C. Butler


Party Lines

I write in response to William Thompson's and Jack W. Germond's Sept. 24 articles. The former concerns the decision by Baltimore-based Democratic Party regulars not to assist my campaign to unseat my incumbent opponent in the First Congressional District.

In it, the party brass call me "an anomaly" and characterize my views as "extreme." I'm also referred to as "ultraconservative."

The fact is, party leadership has based its decision on hearsay. They've done me the "courtesy" of not having a single conversation with me. As for the characterizations, I'm not ultra anything, unless you consider support for a balanced federal budget as extreme; or my conviction that government should care more about the safety of police officers than the comfort of convicted criminals.

Is it extremist to harbor a deep concern about recent foreign-policy embarrassments, or to oppose health care "reforms" that would bankrupt many small businesses?

Such views are extreme only in the eyes of party liberals, ultraliberals if you will, who by responding more to the screamers in their midst than to the needs of the forgotten middle class have headed my party toward devastating defeats in November.

Which brings me to Mr. Germond's article, citing poll results and professional opinions that point to likely midterm defeats nationwide that "are more severe than the party in the White House normally suffers."

If the mindlessness of party leaders in Baltimore is a fair reflection of party management elsewhere, these predictions should surprise no one.

Loyalty begets loyalty. By rejecting the choice of the First District Democrats, party chiefs have rejected their voice as well.

That may provide short-term gratification to the party's liberal Baltimore leadership. But we'll see how First District voters respond.

Meanwhile, the message sent out across the state and the country cannot help but confirm the growing popular perception of a party bent on self-destruction. What a shame!

Ralph Gies


The writer is Democratic candidate for Congress in the First District.

Margin of Error

The Sun really lived up to its motto "Light for All" in Mark Hyman's story about tough choices for season ticket holders (Sept. 18).

It seems Mr. Hyman polled all of four people, two Pulitzer Prize winning authors, a Maryland state legislator and a Columbia lawyer, about whether to renew season tickets for the 1995 baseball season.

What a cross section of the 27,500 season ticket holders! One can only guess what the plus/minus margin of error must be for this study.

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