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The Commercial Side of Death Changing Expectations of Death Conference Cumberland Lodge, 24 th November 2012 Dr Kate Woodthorpe Department of Social and.

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Presentation on theme: "The Commercial Side of Death Changing Expectations of Death Conference Cumberland Lodge, 24 th November 2012 Dr Kate Woodthorpe Department of Social and."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Commercial Side of Death Changing Expectations of Death Conference Cumberland Lodge, 24 th November 2012 Dr Kate Woodthorpe Department of Social and Policy Sciences

2 Overview Introduction Beyond ritual: purchasing funerals What happens if you cannot afford a funeral? Role of funeral directors What might this mean? Commerce and death Researching this area

3 Introduction Centre for Death and Society (CDAS) Previous research o Cemetery usage o Memorialisation o Mortuary practices o Funeral director identity o Funeral costs

4 Beyond ritual: purchasing funerals Situational purchase Kopp and Kemp (2007): funeral choices are impacted on by “situational factors such as time, health, knowledge of alternatives, and financial resources” (p. 165) Corden et al (2008): often costs post-death related to expenses during caring period

5 A service industry (re)conceptualising the consumer? “The death of a family member or other loved one can result in disorientation and instability, increasing the affected individual’s vulnerability, and reducing his or her ability to make decisions or conduct routine consumer activities.” (Taylor Quillam, 2008: 472).

6 But how informed are consumers? “… unfortunately, many families do not plan funerals and/or burial arrangements in advance. This means that typically funeral and burial decisions are made under considerable time and emotional pressure that may reduce search.” (Fan and Zick, 2004: 39) Are pre-need plans the answer?

7 What happens if you cannot afford a funeral? Department for Work and Pensions Social Fund Funeral Payment o Issues of entitlement, timing Public Health Funeral o Unable or unwilling? Ad hoc arrangements with funeral directors Family makeup, stigma

8 Role of funeral directors Community service or commercial enterprise? –Compassion or commerce (Parsons, 2003) Opportunities and barriers to change Opportunities: education, training, emphasise and celebrate skill set, sharing good practice Barriers: commercial interests, history

9 (Re) conceptualising the funeral director? “Consumers avoid topics of death and preplanning but may do so because of negative preconceptions about the entities that provide the products and services rather than perceptions of death alone.” (Kemp and Kopp, 2011: 107) Professionalising bereavement services

10 What might this mean? Commerce and death Legacy of respectability associated with the funeral o Pauper funeral Profiting from death: the ultimate taboo? o Where does this leave funeral directors? Issue for private sector and policy makers (Taylor Quillam, 2008)

11 Researching this area

12 References Cordon. A., Hirst, M. and Nice, K. (2008) Financial Implications of Death of a Partner, York: Social Policy Research Unit, University of York. Fan, J. X. and Zick, C. D. (2004) 'The economic burden of health care, funeral and burial expenditures at the end of life', Journal of Consumer Affairs, 38 (1): Kemp, E. and Kopp, S.W. (2011) ‘Resistance and risk: examining the effects of message cues in encouraging end-of-life planning’, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, 30 (1): Kopp, S.W. and Kemp, E. (2007) ‘The Death Care Industry: a review of regulatory and consumer issues’, The Journal of Consumer Affairs, 41 (1): Parsons, B. (2003) ‘Conflict in the context of care: an examination of role conflict between the bereaved and the funeral director in the UK’, Mortality, 8 (1): Taylor Quillam, E. (2008) ‘The Often-Forgotten Nonfuneral Consumer Grief for the Grieving’, The Journal of Consumer Affairs, 42 (3): 471 – 477.

13 Thank you for your time today Any questions?


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