Mortuaries and Naturopaths
June 14, 2009
No bill is ever really dead in the Colorado
legislature. Comatose perhaps for a long period, but always subject to
Last year it was the right time for "warranty for habitability" for
rental housing, a half century after the first bill to do so was offered
by two Republicans. This year, after mortuary professions were no longer
licensed for a quarter of a century, funeral homes and crematories are
now registered beginning Jan. 1, 2010. HB 1202 will be repealed July 1,
2015 unless continued by the legislature and governor.
Rep. Nancy Todd, D-Arapahoe and Sen. Joyce Foster, D-Denver were the
Each funeral establishment will have a registered designee with at least
two years of work experience at the funeral home to represent the
registered location. Consumers and the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies can
gather documents and information needed about the establishment staff.
Democratic governors, Lamm and Romer, and Republican Governor Owens
accepted the consistent opposition by DORA to returning to licensing for
mortuary professionals . In Colorado consumer protection language was
left in the law when the legislature deregulated the occupation in 1983.
And much more has been added to the law since then, making Colorado the
only deregulated state with one of the best laws setting standards for
the funeral industry.
In its 2007 Sunrise report, DORA accepted the designee and funeral home
registration. However the Colorado Funeral Directors Assn. want
licensing for all funeral professions. What they got was title
HB 1202 separates the occupations and sets a standard that must be met
before that person can use the normal description of what he or she
does. In order to use the title:
- A mortuary science practitioner has to
graduate from an acceptable higher education school of mortuary
science, take and pass the national mortuary science test, and have
had 2,000 hours of practice or internship.
- An embalmer needs 4,000 hours of practice
or internship and has embalmed at least 50 dead bodies.
- A funeral director needs 2,000 hours of
practice or internship and directed 50 funerals or graveside
- A cremationist needs 500 hours of practice
or internship and cremated 50 dead human bodies.
As to licensing, DORA states "if regulation is
necessary, the existing statute and regulations should establish the
least restrictive form of regulation consistent with the public interest
considering other available regulatory mechanisms and whether the agency
rules enhance the public interest and are within the scope of
DORA's definition of title protection: "Only those whose study or
experience meets certain prescribed requirement may use the relevant
prescribed titles". DORA calls it the weakest form of regulation. HB
1202 provides "A person shall not advertise, represent, or hold one self
out as or use the title mortuary science practitioner, funeral director,
embalmer, or cremator" unless they meet the required study and hours of
If you have been doing the work for the last quarter century you
obviously know what you are doing. You meet the standards for competence
required, but not the hours and education background. You can do
business. But you will have to find a way to explain what you do without
using the forbidden words. "If asked, don't tell."
Title protection will likely cause disciplinary actions brought against
someone who might have failed to have the number of hours of experience
as opposed to someone having actually provided a bad service.
I would be very surprised to see those presently in the funeral business
in Colorado being charged with causing bad results. I think Colorado in
2008 or 2009 probably has fewer number of bad result cases than any
state in the country.
Legislative Council staff did a study for the 2007 report. Extending
from that study we would likely find about 1,400 practitioners and 600
funeral establishments. For 2007 legislative staff estimated no more
than five complaints annually under the licensing approach "with three
serious enough to require investigations...with one of the three going
to the attorney general for resolution". The original cost for HB1202
will be $182,000. That is money actually paid by consumers to the
funeral home and passed on to the state.
Some naturopathic doctors have been trying to become regulated since
1993. Other attempts were made in 1998 and 2000. There were other years
when Sunrise reports were supportive but the naturopathics decided not
DORA recognizes that failure to regulate has resulted in harm to
consumers. The Colorado Medical Society has consistently opposed
regulation for the occupation.
This year, Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison and Sen. Suzanne Williams,
D-Aurora, got HB 1175 relating to the profession passed the House 40 to
24. It died in Senate Health Committee a month later. Supporters should
request a new DORA Sunrise report to cover 2010 and 2011 attempts.
Many naturopathic doctors want to be licensed or else have the state
provide clear titles that the public can understand. The doctors would
be subject to discipline. They want a minimum education standard
including a degree from a naturopathic college accredited by the Council
of Naturopathic Medical Education, and have passing scores on the
There are many who call themselves naturopathic doctors who cannot meet
the standards proposed. And some schools do not provide accepted
This is a form of patient care legal in 14 or more states that have
licensing programs for incoming graduates of accredited schools. It is
based on the human body's power to heal itself by restoring its natural
If a bill is introduced in 2010 this column will go into detail on the
DORA approach to separate applicants from others using the term
Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.