When you choose a funeral home, you place a lot of faith and trust in the people who work there to respect your loved one’s remains and to care for them with compassion and the utmost dignity. What the FBI uncovered happening in Colorado is the unspeakable. Former funeral home employees questioned by the FBI told a tale of mistreatment behind closed doors in a Montrose Colorado funeral home on main street.
The FBI, under suspicions that a Montrose funeral home wasn’t operating above the table, questioned former employees about whether the director, Megan Hess, not only ran the funeral home, but also ran a second business as a body broker. Not only accused of wrongdoing, Hess’s mother Kari Escher, likewise, came under scrutiny for the part she played in the day to day operations of the funeral home.
Escher’s job was to embalm and to dismember the bodies that came through the funeral parlor. She has been accused of heinous acts such as pulling teeth from dead bodies to extract gold fillings for money.
The problem facing these accusations is that there are no federal laws that prohibit much of what went on at the Colorado funeral home. No laws govern what a funeral home can do with body parts, or if it is illegal to sell and buy of body parts for the purposes of education or research.
In Colorado, and in many other states, it is also not illegal for a funeral home to sell any items that are taken from bodies like the gold fillings that Escher allegedly took. It is also not explicitly illegal to operate a back business of selling body parts, which is a huge problem.
As the law stands, crematories and funeral homes are allowed to sell parts of an individual’s body and to confiscate whatever they can from it to sell for profit, even without the family members being aware of it.
The reason that no laws exist is that not many funeral homes would even consider practicing their business in such a way. Just because something is not illegal, there are codes of conduct that human beings have, and there are unspoken things that you shouldn’t do that aren’t legislated–they just aren’t practiced. In the funeral business, having someone sell body parts or gold fillings is not the norm, and it doesn’t happen regularly.
When investigators looked into other funeral homes, they could find no other in operation that had two businesses, one of operating as a funeral home and another under a different name that was selling body parts.
This case does, however, raise concerns that it the heinous accusations are not just an isolated incident. If a funeral parlor, or someone employed in one, was engaging in that type of practice or behavior, it could be happening without a license or business operation elsewhere.
The only reason that this particular funeral home was because someone took the legal route. It might be the case that the sale of body parts from funeral homes happens all the time, but people keep it under wraps and off the books.
If funeral homes are allowed to engage in that type of activity (operating both funeral services and brokerage of body parts), what is to say that they won’t offer families a discount for allowing specific body parts to be sold? That raises many ethical concerns for the funeral home industry as a whole.
What might be astonishing to many who operate inside and outside of the funeral home business might be a business opportunity to others. If other funeral homes learn of what went on legally in the Montrose funeral home, what is to stop them from doing the same thing? Knowing now that it might not be ethical, but is legal, body brokerage might be something that some funeral homes will consider to increase their bottom line.
Until legislation is initiated to prevent the partnership of funeral homes with brokering services, there is nothing to stop other funeral homes from engaging in similar behaviors that could lead to a host of ethical slippery slopes. But, to-date, no new laws have been discussed or put forth to disallow the practice. Is the funeral industry going to shift?