Vulnerable Capitves

    The 'vulnerable captives' is a surprisingly common public view of the funeral customer.  I have found hints of it in many comments and stories about the funeral industry.  In this post I look at what the 'vulnerable captive' is.

    As the public perceives, we are stuck with using the funeral industry and 'captives' of the industry.  With other industries we hace a choice about whether or not to use their services and products.  Such as with tourism; if we do not like it we simply do not buy trip through a travel agent, or do not travel at all.    There is no necessity to engage with the tourism industry, although it might be forced upon us there is always another option.

    However, we do not feel this way about the funeral industry as death is inevitabel.  There is even a famous saying about how death and taxes are the only sure things in life as no matter what we know death is inevitable.  As such we will all need a funeral, there is simply no option or alternative in the public mind.  That no matter what the funeral industry is guaranteed our business.

    While this is a common view it is not entirely accurate.  For those who wish to avoid the funeral industry entirely there are ways, and not just DIY funerals.  For example one could use a celebrant who will organise everything themselves.  I will not go into detail here as it is complex and off-topic.  Between the variety of funeral companies and other non-industry options nobody could be described as "captive" to the industry.

    Adding to this is the view of the funeral customer as quite vulnerable.  Mourners are considered to be in grieving, in a way exposed.  Take the university ethics system, talking to people about general attitudes to death or funeral long past requires only simple approval.  Yet to talk with those who are at a funeral, or attended a funeral recently needs much higher approval (roughly a 40 page document).  There is a clear distinction between mourners and non-mourners and a strong perception of the mourner as very vulnerable.

    The mourner is emotionally vulnerable to abuse.  I have heard a few people raise concernes about how those in a state of grieving could easily be taken advantage of.  That they are easier to pressure and guide to something they would not normally want or like.

    The other funeral customer is the deceased, be they already dead or not dead yet.  This group is like the mourner in that they are considered very vulnerable, but in a different way.  While the mourner is emotionally vulnerable the deceased is more physically vulnerable.  Their body lays in the mortuary, behind closed doors and at the mercy of strange strangers.  Those within the industry might be saddened by this, but many outside the industry think only strange people would want to work with bodies.  The blog sometimes gets found by people asking google things like "are undertakers strange" or similar questions.

    So the body is exposed not simply in front of strangers, but strange strangers.  In a room and place very very rarely seen or known by the public.  So many worry about the things which go on within the mortuary.  Thoughts of necrophilia are common in the public despite not even a rumour of it happening within the industry.  Several people have emailed me asking about misconduct in the mortuary, how they are really concerned with mistreatment.  They are concerned enough to search it out on google, find my blog, find my email, then write me an email.  The worry of misconduct with bodies is more common than misconduct itself.

    There is a prominent concern about the deceased being mistreated by the funeral industry, from things like necrophilia to just improper care.  Many hold the view that the deceased is ripe for mistreatment, as they are unable to defend themselves or speak up.

    This view puts the industry in a rather negative light, to see the customer as a vulnerable captive is to say the industry is an abusive abductor.  That the funeral industry is deliberately misleading and taking people against their desire.  Unfortunately this view of the vulnerable captive is an ingrained part of our society.  It is an important part of how we view the mourner and deceased and how we view the role of the funeral industry.  So despite the fact that it is not necessarily the case it is prevalent and will remain that way for a while.


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