Bill allows family to care for dead

Tears flowed as senators heard about a proposal allowing Minnesotans to take care of dead family members.

"I had cared for Gary throughout his illness," Heather Halen of Minneapolis told a Senate health committee Wednesday. "I wanted to be the one who cared for him after his death."

Halen said she placed her husband in a plain pine casket on her front porch and hosted a small memorial service in their home.

However, current law limited the home funeral to family and a few very close friends. She said she would have liked to invite more.

The bill, similar to one in the House, passed out of the committee Wednesday and may be in front of the full Senate soon.

"This bill will allow families to wash and care for the bodies," said Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, who cried as she told about holding an overnight vigil with her mother-in-law’s body.

The bill written by Pappas allows families to preserve a body with dry ice instead of embalming it.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, a former state epidemiologist, said bodies are not a health problem and dry ice should control odor.

The Minnesota Funeral Homes Associating opposed Pappas’ bill.

"A public viewing can happen on a picnic table in a public park, leaving behind infectious materials," Cory Michaelson said.

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