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On World AIDS Day, New Mexico activists say more money is needed for prevention; ND farmers still navigate corporate land-ownership policy maze; Unpaid caregivers in ME receive limited financial grants.

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken urges Israel to protect civilians amid Gaza truce talks, New York Rep. George Santos defends himself as his expected expulsion looms and CDC director warns about respiratory illness as flu season begins.

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Congress has iced the Farm Bill, but farmer advocates argue some portions are urgent, the Hoosier State is reaping big rewards from wind and solar, and opponents react to a road through Alaska's Brooks Range, long a dream destination for hunters and anglers.

“Death Doulas” Fight for Right to Serve Families

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Tuesday, December 14, 2021   

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A case which could put so-called "death doulas" out of business gets a hearing this week before a federal judge in Sacramento.

Death doulas support families emotionally through the process of losing a loved one, educate people on their options and sometimes wash and dress the body and assist with home funerals or green burials. The state wants to require them to get a funeral director's license.

Jess Pezley, staff attorney for the nonprofit Compassion and Choices, which has filed an amicus brief to join the case, said the license would require doulas to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a funeral home equipped to embalm and store bodies.

"They don't embalm. They aren't transporting the body. They aren't offering crematorium services," Pezley outlined. "And they're not doing anything that would put themselves or others at risk of blood-borne viruses, things like that."

Two years ago, the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau ordered the doulas at Full Circle of Living and Dying in Nevada County to become licensed funeral directors or cease operations. The doulas sued, and a preliminary injunction allowed them to stay in business. The bureau declined to comment.

Pezley noted the state's order was spurred by an anonymous complaint.

"It would make sense that it was somebody in the conventional funeral industry who has this vested financial interest in dissuading people from home burials or green burials," Pezley contended.

Meagan Williams, a death doula and senior media associate with Compassion and Choices, said if the doulas are required to become funeral directors, it would effectively shut down the field and deny families an important option.

"Doulas can bring comfort and peace," Williams stated. "Knowing that they're not alone, knowing that there's somebody who is educated who understands the process, understands what's coming up ahead of them, and can help them plan."

This week both sides are asking for a summary judgment, and a decision is expected early next year.

Disclosure: Compassion and Choices contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Health Issues, Senior Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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