Recently we were asked to provide a fact check for a speaker who was preparing to share the story of her husband's home funeral. Here are the primary misconceptions around family death-care rights that we expected she might encounter:
“The 24 Hour Rule”
Many, including those working for hospice, believe there’s a “24 hour rule” after which a body must be in refrigeration or taken from the home. In Oregon, a body may be kept at home until the family is ready to cremate or bury. There is no time limit in Oregon law for a body to lie in honor; one to three days is common. Refrigeration is not necessary: under normal circumstances, a body will keep for that period without odors or significant changes in a 55 to 65-degree room if it has been properly cleaned and prepared. Reduce the room’s temperature by opening the windows or with air conditioning if possible. Placing and periodically replacing dry ice or Techni Ice™ under and over the body will help cool the body if desired.
See “Cooling” section: https://www.oregonfuneral.org/how_to_perform_body_care.html
“You have to hire a funeral home/ mortuary.”
This misconception is reinforced by the common hospice and care facility question, “What funeral home shall we call when death occurs?” Under Oregon law, you are NOT required to hire a funeral home – anyone can perform the functions of a funeral director for family and community members as long as they’re not paid to do so. This after-deathcare includes any of all of the following: bathing/dressing the body, arranging for final disposition, keeping the body at home for vigil/ viewing/ ceremony, transporting the body, and handling all the legal notifications, certification, and permits. The legal term is “person acting as a funeral service practitioner,” defined in ORS 432.005 as “a person other than a funeral service practitioner licensed under ORS 692.045, including but not limited to a relative, friend, or other interested party, who performs the duties of a funeral service practitioner without payment.”
“You have to hire a funeral home to transport a body after death.” OR “You need a transportation permit to bring a deceased loved one home for after-deathcare, from their place of death.”
In Oregon, it is legal for a family member or friend to transport a deceased body. This could include transportation from place of death to place where viewing or ceremony will take place, and transport to final disposition for burial or cremation. Families may bring a body home after a death in a hospital or other institution, including from the Medical Examiner’s office, even before the death certificate has been signed. It is wise to check hospital or care facility body release policies well in advance if possible to ensure a smooth transition. Once the death certificate has been signed, it functions as the burial/transit permit, which is required ONLY for transfer to the place of final disposition.
See “Moving the Body”: https://www.oregonfuneral.org/how_to_perform_body_care.html
“A Home Funeral takes place in the home and is only for certain kinds of people.”
What’s referred to as a “home funeral” may occur within the family home or not, and is:
Notice all the AND/ORs… this is a continuum and it’s up to each family/community to determine their own configuration of tasks, those handled in-house vs by a paid funeral services provider.