BOSTON — Scattering the ashes of a deceased family member in Massachusetts will soon cost more, as the state is set to double the required fee for cremation reviews.
The state medical examiner’s office plans to increase the fee for “viewing” a body prior to cremation from $100 to $200. The office says the fee hasn’t increased in 10 years.
A spokesman for the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security said the increase is needed to cover operational costs of the cremation review process, including the hiring of additional pathology staff, the opening of new state inspection facilities, expanded office hours and a new online portal to communicate with funeral directors.
The examiner’s office is required by law to “view” and verify the identity of the deceased before a body is cremated and the ashes scattered or stored in an urn. More than 30,000 such reviews are performed every year in Massachusetts, according to the office.
Funeral directors say a higher fee will hurt low-income families who often choose cremation as a less costly option than traditional casket-in-the-ground burials.
“This will be a burden for a lot of families,” said C.R. Lyons III, of Lyons & Sons Funeral Directors in Danvers, who is president of the Massachusetts Funeral Directors Association. “Unfortunately, the Medical Examiner’s Office has been grossly underfunded over the years.”
Spending on the office has doubled to more than $21 million in the past eight years, according to state data. Still, Lyons blames the Legislature for not funding it adequately, forcing the medical examiner’s office to raise fees “to reconcile the fact that they haven’t had a reasonable budget increase.”
Besides covering the cost of pre-cremation viewings, the agency said it is opening a new facility in Westfield and expanding operating hours at other facilities. It will hold a public hearing on the proposal on July 19 to explain the fee increases, which don’t require legislative approval.
The new fee is expected to go into effect in August.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for the Timess and its sister newspapers and websites. Email him at email@example.com.