Why does body transportation cost so much?

A fellow caregiver asked...

I designated, in writing, to the University of Michigan to have a WHOLE BODY DONATION when I die. They (U of M Anatomical Donation Program) sent me the paperwork, needed to have a witness for my signature by my family. I sent in the completed form. Now, here's my question for the people at Caring com: How much does it cost for TRANSPORTATION OF MY REMAINS to the University of Michigan?? The funeral directors said costs $2,000.00 to transport. Why does it cost so much??

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

Most funeral homes charge a set amount to transport a body within a designated area, then tack on an additional amount per mile for lengthier journeys. The $2,000 price you were quoted does sound expensive. But you may have some less costly options.

First of all, shop around. Comparison shop among a number of funeral homes; prices are competitive these days. Best of all, you should be able to do this without leaving the confines of your own home or being untethered from your computer. Establishments should give you a cost quote over the phone"”and many have websites that will include a range of transportation costs or calculate costs based on miles to be covered.

The Willed Body Program in Michigan currently provides some financial help with body transportation, although it may impose some geographical limitations. Find out by calling 517-353-5398.

You might also consider bypassing a funeral director, as there is a question under Michigan law about whether one is required to simply transport the body. An express provision of the law prohibits funeral directors, for example, from "refusing to promptly surrender the custody of a dead human body, upon the express order of the person lawfully entitled to the custody." Those entitled to custody are generally the spouse or close next of kin.

Finally, there are a couple of consumer groups that may be able to provide express direction in your area. They include: Funeral Consumers Information Society at www.funeralinformationsociety.org/index.htm and the Funeral Service Consumer Assistance Program at 708-827-6337 or 800-662-7666.