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Caskets not required in Oregon, but going without one isn't easy

Is a casket mandatory in order to be buried in Medford or Jackson County cemeteries?

— Phil, Eagle Point

We can see why you’d question the expense, Phil. With prices on one local funeral home’s website ranging between $1,700 to close to $6,000, a casket is a costly portion of a person’s final expenses.

Skipping that expense will require some thinking outside the cemetery plot — and by the time you’re finished you may find yourself stepping over a dollar to save a dime.

Burials are not required to have a casket or liner under Oregon law, according to an Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board “Facts about funeral and cemetery arrangements” pamphlet; however, local cemeteries are free to set their own rules.

A cemetery doesn’t just require coffins to add another line item to the bill, according to a 2018 SYA about green burials. Some cemeteries require rigid coffins because there’s a possibility that without a coffin the ground would collapse around the grave and cause a depression in the ground.

According to the legal website Nolo.com, Oregon law allows burials on your own property, but only if you’ve obtained written consent from city or county officials.

Under Oregon Revised Statute 97.460, requirements for burials on your own property include terms such as maintaining burial records as required by city, county and state officials and disclosing the burials to any buyers of the property.

A sort-of casketless burial option could be available in the near future. On Dec. 8, Oregon state Rep. Pam Marsh of Ashland facilitated an info gathering session between the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board and a company called Recompose, according to the state death care industry governing board's website.

The natural and organic human composting service, which retails for about $5,500, starts with treating the human remains with microbes, laying the remains in a “cradle surrounded by wood chips, alfalfa and straw,” according to Recompose’s website. Eventually the plant matter and remains transform into a cubic yard of soil that can be “used to enrich conservation land, forests, or gardens.”

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.