After a person dies their DNA may be preserved for generations. Funeral directors offer the last opportunity to save a deceased person’s genetic record.
As genetic research continues to leap forward, DNA is a subject in daily news feeds whether finding a cure or treatment for disease or using DNA as a identification tool. The subject of DNA in the funeral industry is emerging as consumers are educating themselves that:
- When a person is cremated, their DNA is lost and destroyed as a result of the cremation process.
- Once buried, disinterment is costly, emotionally and financially.
Funeral directors provide the last chance for families to preserve their deceased loved one’s genetic record, (DNA). What does that mean?
After a person dies their DNA may be preserved for generations of families. Why would a family want to save their loved one’s DNA?
DNA for medical reasons:
- Diagnosing medical conditions
- Calculating inherited risks for your children
- Deciding medical tests and medicinal dosage
- Selecting therapeutic agents including gene therapy
- Determining disease risk and preventative measures
- Measuring generational mutation rates to track disorders
DNA for genealogy reasons:
- To learn more about ancestors
- Determine biological or geographical relationships between people
- Find relatives of adoptees
- Provide options for halted traditional genealogical research
- To learn from which relative(s) certain traits were inherited
- Establishing citizenship requirements
No different than attorneys, physicians, financial planners and the like; funeral consumer families rely on funeral directors to provide good advice along with information to make good funeral choices. The DNA and death issue “cat is out of the bag” so how is your funeral home sharing the information with the families you serve and what solutions are you offering? From the desk of The Funeral Commander, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander.com
Nearly every day there are news feeds that address the topic of DNA. Just yesterday, Legacy.com posted an interesting article, “What Can DNA Tell You About How You’ll Die?” From science and medicine to solving crimes, consumers are becoming more familiar with the power of genetic developments and with DNA in particular. For funeral directors, DNA and genetic advancements provide a new topic that adds to their professional knowledge and an informal obligation to provide some genetic information to the families they serve.
Information that is important to funeral consumers:
- The cremation process is an irreversible process.
- All DNA is lost (destroyed) during the cremation process.
- Disinterment is costly; emotionally and financially (in some cases/areas may require legal action).
These three elements are factual and have relevance…but why? Think about it, whether your funeral home provides a family cremation or burial for their deceased loved one, once your services are provided, their loved one’s genetic record is either destroyed or inaccessible.
As a funeral director, sharing such information with the families you serve imparts additional professional relevance for their decision making. It’s our obligation to provide information so that families can make educated funeral choices. Sharing that you offer one last chance to preserve their deceased loved one’s genetic record could have generational implications. Most of all, you are offering information they might not otherwise have known; isn’t that what professionals do for their customers?
A couple of points to consider:
- Funeral Professionals are making it known that familial DNA has accumulating medical and genealogical value and there is a straightforward, economical and private way to preserve it.
- Genetic developments are supplementing the knowledge already imparted by Funeral Professionals. Families benefit by receiving the latest in genetic medical and genealogical applications, as well as physical DNA preservation. This is now becoming an important option in Funeral Service.
From the Command Post, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander
Funeral consumers are now provided the option of collecting their deceased loved ones DNA. Of course, some may wonder why anyone would want to collect DNA from a deceased person. The first question that must be answered; exactly what is DNA?
DNA is the instructions to create new life. Think of schematics for an electrical system or blueprints to build a house, each cell in a body contains a full identical DNA compliment and every living thing known today from animals, plants, bacteria and even viruses all use DNA to reproduce and function. Because same DNA is in every cell of a human body it doesn’t matter which cell you get the DNA from each has a full set of instructions. When a cell splits, the exact DNA is copied in the new cell. The egg cells and the sperm cells each have half a compliment of DNA from the mother and father. When they join they create a new life and follow the DNA instructions to build the organism. Hair color, height and all your physical traits are genetically programmed. There is an interaction between environment and DNA which determines how these genes are expressed. You may be genetically programmed to obtain a height of six feet but because of bad nutrition you only grow to five feet. DNA is also passed down with very little variation in families which allows the identification of trends for disease and illness
The significance of DNA research for medical reasons including identification of early stage diseases and using DNA for analysis for cures continues to emerge (see a recent report on BBC News DNA project ‘to make UK world genetic research leader’). For many, a compelling reason for DNA collection is where and who we come from. DNA provides a 100% accurate family lineage securing important legacy for future generations. Genetic genealogy a popular interest in North America and as genetic records accumulate around the globe, preserving familial DNA now ensures any geographic and all-genealogical connections are forever possible.
To circle back to why anyone would want to collect DNA from a deceased person, funeral directors know the finality of the decision. There are three facts that are very important when making funeral arrangements that must be considered:
- Cremation is an irreversible process. Unlike burial where a body may be disinterred after a period of time, cremation is a final disposition of human remains.
- All genetic and medial DNA are destroyed by the cremation process. DNA begins degradation at 800 degrees and the cremation of a human typically is a temperature is over 1800 degrees. There are no traces of DNA in cremated human remains.
- Even after burial of a loved one, disinterment is costly both emotionally and financially. In some jurisdictions, disinterment may require court orders.
When considering these facts, basically a funeral director is offering the “last chance” for a family to collect and bank their deceased loved ones DNA.
With all the media resources available today, communicating a clear message should be simple. However, often we have a propensity to “sugar coat” the message to the intended audience for whatever reason. For me, I think the softening of the message often misses the point intended to deliver. One of my favorite sayings “I’m not going to tell you to go to hell, but I am going to tell you the truth, and that feels like hell.”
The message is clear: The cremation process is irreversible. All DNA is destroyed by the cremation process. As a funeral professional, it’s your obligation to provide this information to a family so they may make an educated decision; the last chance collect a DNA sample from their deceased loved one, or not. Of course, there are those funeral directors that will say “well, the family has never asked me about this” or “we don’t have a legal or regulatory obligation to tell a family that.”
Recently, a funeral home owner provided an interesting perspective to his leadership team about providing families they serve information regarding cremation destroying DNA: “In a few years, this is going to be a big story in the local news. Because we shared this (the last chance to collect DNA from their loved one) with a family and they chose to collect a sample, the sample made a significant difference in their lives…or we did not tell the family, and they are suing us. Which is the best story?”
In the event an uniformed family (not provided the facts that cremation is irreversible and cremation destroys DNA by you, or your staff) returns to your funeral home with their loved ones cremated remains (that your firm cremated), and asks you (their funeral director/funeral home owner) to collect the DNA from those cremated remains, your answer is: __________________? Please share with us your answer; we really want to hear what you have to say. Got the message? Cheers y’all! #thefuneralcommander