Funeral Industry News

Dying a Tight Squeeze For The Obese

August 13, 2009

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Dying a Tight Squeeze For The Obese


It can?t be easy trying to squeeze someone who is obese into a normal-size casket. In fact, it is often impossible. But America?s obesity epidemic has created a burgeoning new specialty in the funeral industry for oversized caskets, vaults, crematoria, and even hearses. According to the standard width of a casket is 28 inches, the standard length is 84 inches and standard height is 23 inches ? large enough to accommodate the average person who is 18 inches wide, 72 inches long, and 6 inches high – but for someone who is obese and weighing, perhaps, as much as 400 pounds or more, there simply may not be enough room in a standard-sized casket.?

?Most people are getting larger? says Bob Mayhew, owner of the Mayhew Funeral Home in Jackson, Ohio, which has been serving the Jackson community since 1924. ?People are eating more and, in most cases, a standard casket will not be usable.? The largest person that Mayhew has had to bury weighed about 900 pounds and required an oversized vault in addition to an oversized casket with a 37-inch width. They make them even bigger. The caskets, I mean.

Appropriately-named Goliath Casket, Inc. a family-owned maker of caskets in Lynn, Indiana, for more than 20 years, makes caskets as large as 52 inches wide ? just two inches shorter than a double bed ? and up to 8 feet long accommodating up to 1,000 pounds. These larger-sized caskets are available in different variations, although not as many as standard caskets, and typically cost 20-50% more and take more time to make.

The bigger problem, however, is that a standard casket is made to fit into a standard vault which is made to fit into a standard cemetery plot, so obesity is throwing the whole funeral industry off balance. In response to the growing prevalence of larger clientele, the industry is cautiously increasing the size of its burial plots and crypts and even altering the width of some hearses to transport larger caskets in some cases.

In the meantime, though, some people might have to purchase more than one burial plot to accommodate their loved ones or even suffer the ignominy of transporting them in the back of a flatbed truck to the grave site. Airline doors are not wide enough for oversized caskets either, so other forms of transportation might be necessary to transport the body for any distance. Think about more pall bearers too.

Recently Mayhew buried a young boy who weighed more than 800 pounds. “He required a very large casket, and we had to rent a crane to move the casket from a flatbed truck to the burial site,” says Mayhew. “But first, the fire department had to cut a wall away to remove him from his house.”

Most families are certainly aware when their loved ones are obese while they are alive, but they typically don?t think that their relatives might need special accommodations until it is too late. Operating under the dubious presumption that ?one size fits all,? they are usually caught off guard when the funeral director takes measurements and declares that ?Mom? or ?Dad? might be ? duh – too fat for a standard funeral. Oops! Mom or Dad may have even pre-purchased a plot that is now too small! Oops again!

Many people are turning to cremation as an alternative. According the most recent figures from 2003, the U.S. cremation rate was 28% according to the Cremation Association of America and is projected to be 43% by 2025. But, alas, even the biggest cremation casket tests up to just 500 pounds and most crematoria cannot handle bodies over 500 pounds yet.

Americans are living larger and dying larger in increasing numbers, and families with obese relatives might think about pre-planning well in advance for their demise rather than waiting until after the fact. On the other hand, they might also encourage their relatives to lose weight so that, perhaps, they might live a little longer and postpone their funeral? Or at least live better in the meantime.

Article By: Jim Evans, From the

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