#CorpseSelfie

Tasteless, right? For those unfamiliar with what I just posted above, that’s a hashtag used on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to categorize photos, tweets and blog posts to identify messages on a specific topic. How specific? As specific as you’d like it to be. And while the “#CorpseSelfie” isn’t by any means the norm, it might as well be after reading this horrible story about a high school student posting a photo of herself with a cadaver.

While on the senior class trip to the University of Alabama’s Anatomical Donation Center, one high school student did what many high school students do… she took a selfie. (For those non-web savvy readers, a “selfie” is when someone takes a photo of themselves with their phone.)

The issue here is that she opted to include a cadaver in this picture. Thus, this deceased man, who had the goodness to donate his body to science, was completely exposed on Instagram. The photo was deleted, and all subsequent ones have blurred the body and student, but the beast had been released.

The point of the Internet is to get attention at all costs. The more shocking and bizarre the more popular it becomes. Then other people come along and either emulate the trend or make fun of it until they get bored and move on to something else.

Mostly, it’s just harmless, and often clever, fun. When something truly horrible surfaces, like racist Halloween costumes or fast food workers grossly tampering with food, the Internet and mainstream media comes together to shame it out of existence. However, every year there’s always another racist Halloween costume or rogue fast food employee and the cycle starts all over again. Ideally, taking photos with cadavers won’t happen often, but with hundreds of millions of people online, some of whom will do anything to gain more “likes” and re-tweets, odds are it will happen again.

This also opens up the conversation about decorum when confronted with death. Remember when President Obama took a selfie at Nelson Mendela’s funeral? The general consensus, and look on Michelle Obama’s face, was that funerals are not the place to whip out the camera phone.

But this isn’t really about politics. We’ve seen our politicians posting worse selfies than smiles at a funeral. (I still can’t erase those Anthony Weiner images from my mind.) But it seems like we’re transforming what were once selfless acts of remembrance (funerals) and medical research (donating a body to science) into an opportunity to get selfish attention. You want your funeral to be remembered as a way to honor your life, not as a sideshow where some bored attendee you barely knew made it about them. You want your death to be able to help the living, but not if some teen is using your body as a background prop.

With technology being so easy to use and share with millions, this isn’t much of a shock. Teens are looking to outdo one another with craziness of photos, but my concern is that we have become a society that cares more about social admiration than we do about respecting a deceased human. While some may say "What's the big deal?" or brush it off as stupid teenage behavior, I ask: What if this were your father, husband or brother? What if an entire life that mattered so much to you was reduced to a quick gag?

I strongly support donating all or parts of our body at the point when we no longer need them, and no one should feel otherwise because of this story. I've done plenty of research and studying and wholeheartedly believe legitimate medical institutions like University of Alabama treat bodies with the utmost respect. While I feel sorry for the gentleman who was exposed and his family, I hope all future high school trips to their donation center, and all donation centers looking to educate people, immediately start doing what most institutions housing sensitive information and research do: Take away everyone's cell phone the moment they arrive and don’t give it back until they’re walking out the door.

Your dog or cat loves you, often more than you can ever love him or her in return. You are that pet’s world. Now imagine if you weren’t around to take care of them anymore and didn’t make arrangements for their care. Unless a friend or family member takes ownership, we’re talking shelters...or worse. (Those stories out of the Sochi Olympics where stray dogs were being shot have made us ill.)

Don’t get sad because there’s something you can do to protect your fluffy companion that’s starting to gain in popularity. It's called a Pet Trust.

On ABC's hit TV show Modern Family, Claire and Phil Dunphy (Julie Bowden and Ty Burrell) take their daughter Haley (Sarah Hyland) out to nice, booze-fueled dinner to find out her plans for the future. Haley knows something’s up and refuses to drink, waiting patiently and staying sharp. After some awkward exchanges, their role as concerned parents hits a snag when they find out she’s been doing a fashion blog and intends to take business classes to monetize it.

Then the tables are turned.

“You know what I’m pretty sure is ironic?” Haley asks. “You guys spend all this time worrying what I’m going to do when maybe you should start thinking about what you’re going to do.”

If you’re a proponent for ending your life in the event of a terminal illness, the Breaking Bad state has some good news.

A New Mexico judge said terminally ill, mentally competent patients can choose to have a doctor end their life, according to CNN. Stemming from a lawsuit filed on behalf of a terminally ill cancer patient by the ACLU and Compassion & Choices, the judge had to consider if doctors could precribe a fatal dose of drugs if a patient wanted it. Here's an excerpt of Second Judicial District Judge Nan Nash's response:

This Court cannot envision a right more fundamental, more private or more integral to the liberty, safety and happiness of a New Mexican than the right of a competent, terminally ill patient to choose aid in dying. If decisions made in the shadow of one's imminent death regarding how they and their loved ones will face that death are not fundamental and at the core of these constitutional guarantees, than what decisions are?



Legendary actress/comedienne Carol Burnett made a guest appearance on a very special (and sad) Thanksgiving episode of CBS’ Hawaii Five-0. (We’re aware Thanksgiving was a few months ago but we’re a little behind on our TV shows). She plays the lively Aunt Deb who travels to the tropical paradise unannounced with sad news: She’s dying of a brain tumor and wants to depart this earth peacefully.

Her rowdy nephew is Lt. Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin), who spends his days chasing down bad guys, jovially arguing with his partner Danno (Scott Caan) and refusing to take no for an answer. At first he thinks his aunt is in town to just say hello for the holidays, but when she’s arrested for buying pot to alleviate some of her symptoms he learns she’s there to say goodbye.

“What’s the plan?” McGarrett asks. “What’s the course of treatment?”


Source: Flickr/Gerald Pereira

When I tell people that I worked in the funeral industry, I’m always asked if it’s as sketchy as they think. Then they’ll tell me about an article they read where a consumer was ripped off, or a news blurb they watched about a body being buried in the wrong grave. It’s almost always anecdotal, but the stories pile up.

Although there were major funeral industry issues in the past, since 1984 the Federal Trade Commission has regulated it to curb many horrible practices.  But since employees performing their job properly isn’t interesting, the public only sees the negative scandalous stuff. Thus, people believe the funeral industry, which is already mysterious to begin with, is full of scandal.


The popular financial site LearnVest has jumped on the Death Over Dinner train with this recent article "Death Dinners: Why Dying Is a Supper Topic Du Jour":

For many people these days, one effective way to share their very personal end-of-life decisions and desires with friends and family is to host “death dinners.” The hope is that gathering over a meal will make discussing the topic of dying a little more palatable, while also sparing loved ones from fighting over financial and medical issues down the road.


We stealthily Photoshopped Abby in since she took the picture. Can you tell?

Our mission here at Everplans is to help people—from Millennials to Baby Boomers to the aging—better understand that they don’t have to spend a lot of money, time, or effort to get basic plans in place to protect their families and we're so happy to annouce some new hires to achieve our goals.

Editorial Director Gene Newman (former Editor-in-Chief of Maxim.com) and Chief Technology Officer Warren Habib (formerly of MTV Networks, Fotolog, and AddThis) have joined our team and will help us live up to our mantra: Everyone needs an exit strategy for life. They approach this world from an entirely new perspective and we can't wait to reveal our new offerings in the near future.

We're also excited to annouce we've added valuable expertise from the death care and financial services industries. Elizabeth Meyer, who spent the past four years serving as a Family Services Liaison at New York’s Frank E. Campbell funeral home and Riverside Memorial Chapel, is our resident funeral planning expert. Former SVP at Merrill Lynch Michael Herman is our Director of Business Development and will be creating channel partnerships.

Welcome to the team everyone!

Read the full announcement in our press release section.

Kevin “Mr. Wonderful” O’Leary is the resident sourpuss on ABC’s Shark Tank, a show where rich successful business people offer funding and advice to entrepreneurs looking for a break. O’Leary’s take-no-prisoners attitude makes him the business equivalent of Simon Cowell, always crushing hopes and dreams with an evil smirk. Underneath it all he seemed to have a heart. Until the “Week 8” episode aired on November 8, 2013.

While picking apart a paparazzi photo business that captures wedding proposals, O’Leary crossed the line from being a tough businessman to heartless jerk who loves death because he can cash in on people suffering from loss.

“I love two industries. I love weddings and I love people dying,” O’Leary said with a grin. “Because when both of those happen people make stupid decisions. Emotional decisions. Not financial decisions. And because that is the case, there’s huge industries behind both of those.”

Yes, he’s correct about there being huge industries behind both of these. It’s understandable with weddings because they’re voluntary joyous celebrations. Dying, on the other hand, is mandatory and always devastating.

To say you love death because people are ripe for the picking is what’s wrong with the entire industry. No one should be pleased with themselves for taking advantage of people at their most vulnerable. This has long been the perception of the death industry--people profiting off of other people’s misery--and O’Leary is making sure that stereotype is alive and well.

He never specifies what sort of dying he loves. Is it just older sick people? Perhaps it’s soldiers or firefighters? How about taking advantage of parents who aren’t thinking straight because they just lost a child? Is that the sort of money that gets Mr. Wonderful excited?

It’s also upsetting that no one else on the panel--Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire Mark Cuban, real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, or charming guy who sits on the end and never bids on anything Robert Herjavec--called him out on it.

QVC Queen Lori Greiner even laughed while he spoke, though in her defense she’s probably used to O’Leary’s shock tactics and chose to let it go. Perhaps if FUBU’s Daymond John were on the panel that episode he would have taken him to task.

We’re fully aware that funeral homes, crematories and end-of-life services need to turn a profit to stay in business. It’s also possible for many people in this industry to love helping grieving families during their time of need. But when O’Leary made that “I love people dying” comment, either because he believes it or to advance his image as a TV big shot only interested in money, he went from being a shark to a weasel.

Everplans Co-founder Abby Schneiderman running our booth

San Jose is lovely this time of year and Everplans is thrilled to be exhibiting at The 2013 AgeTech West Conference and Expo (“Aging Services Meets Silicon Valley: Creating the Future of Care”). We're also excited to be participating in Aging 2.0's Pitch-For-Pilots competition, which is where start-ups pitch their technology solution with the goal of attracting pilot partners. Big thanks to everyone for allowing us to be part of this incredible event.