Thursday, February 2, 2012

Why Lie?

I mentioned in a previous post that I had spent Saturday with my in-laws. My father in law, Cary asked me to help obtain a death certificate for his brother, Manny. Manny had died a few months ago in Colorado and had preplanned and prepaid to be cremated. A local friend disposed of Manny's assets but was unwilling to send Cary a death certificate. Since I am a funeral director by trade, Cary asked for my assistance.
Will You Help?
I called the Colorado funeral home that cremated Manny on Saturday. I asked for their assistance in obtaining a death certificate. The gentleman that answered the phone explained that the funeral home administrative aide (Judy) arranged for death certificates. Judy would be back at work Monday and call me then.

When Judy hadn't called me by Wednesday, I felt it was time to call Judy. Judy answered the phone. I told Judy that I had called the funeral home on Saturday and explained the reason for my call. Judy put me on hold to get Manny's file. When she returned to the phone, Judy said,
     "I'm sorry. I can't help you. John Smith signed the contract.
     You will have to go through him."
I replied, "You are unwilling to help the next of kin get a death certificate?"
     "Well, with HIPAA regulations we can only work with the person that signed the contract", Judy said.
 It's Against The Law To Help.
As soon as I heard HIPAA, I asked Judy to have the funeral home manager call me. It's now Thursday at 10:30 AM and I have not heard from the funeral home manager. I expect I won't. The funeral home clearly has no concept of customer service. Funeral homes have no obligation to comply with HIPAA. Further, helping a family member obtain a death certificate isn't a disclosure of private information.   Judy, and by extension the funeral home was simply unwilling to help.
Why Lie?
It seems many service businesses are using this strategy. When asked to explain a stunning lack of customer service or a new policy that is clearly anti-consumer, the business blames some form of federal or state regulation. Many federal or state regulations are cumbersome, far reaching and difficult to understand.  That makes state and federal regulations convenient targets for "why I can't help you." Still there is no law in favor of lazy or sloppy customer service.

Have you encountered someone using regulation as a reason not to help? How does that make you feel? Would you allow an employee or client to use regulations as a shield for poor company policy?


  1. I would of been highly upset as well. That is just ridiculous how they cannot help, and they just pass the buck. Just unbelievable. I am so sorry you all have to go through this. I hope you can find a way to solve this. I wish I could help, but I wouldn't know where to send you, I'm sorry, but you all will be in my prayers.

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  6. Of course deceased people have no HIPPA rights! They have passed & the law believes that they can no longer be embarresed or libeled or whatever. That's how the media (& public) get those juicy death details of celebrities. You would think that a funeral director or anyone in that industry would work to help the living who have been affected by a death. The people u had to deal with were lazy & hoped u were uninformed (or as lazy as they were) & thus wouldn't question them or keep bothering them cuz "the law" is on their side. I have an aunt trying to deal with the health difficulties of her daughter & newly born grandson, yet even with the proper paperwork meets resistance at every step.

  7. Lily,

    Your comment posted 5 times. I deleted the 4 superfluous ones. FD's work very hard to avoid errors or possible legal issues. That usually has them stuck in the middle with all claiming to excel and few really excelling at much of anything. I do take particular exception the attempt to hide behind gov't regulation. But hey, it only makes those that truly excel shine a little brighter. Sorry about the hassles your family is having with paper pushers. I hope things go smoother and remind your aunt that the 1st (and often 2nd) person she speaks with usually can't help her with anything other than a simple yes or no. Send it up the chain.

    Thank you for your kind thoughts. Yes it is frustrating but I'll get it figured out.