I had an interesting conversation the other day. Mind you, I have many interesting conversations as many people find my line of work, well…interesting. This conversation was interesting not in the way of being enlightening or humorous, but rather in how it managed to disturb me. This particular conversation happened to revolve around teeth. My patient’s teeth, to be precise. I was asked how much we could sell gold teeth for after we removed them from our patient’s mouths. The person questioning me had mentioned that a relative had told her that she could get around $40-50 per gold tooth. I responded by asking where that information had come from. “The funeral home.”, she said.
What? Of course I felt the need to tell her my patient’s teeth are staying exactly where they belong, precious metals or no – I don’t have the dental training necessary to remove them, nor do I have the stomach. I can’t speak for any other morticians, but pulling teeth is on my “no” list. When I mentioned this to my colleague later that day, she said she had been asked similar questions in the past. “It’s technically legal, but only if a dentist does it.”, she said. “I asked a dentist once at the request of an insistent family, and was told that the operation itself would cost them around $1200. Not only that, but the dentist refused to do the operation in the funeral home, or permit the body in their office.”
The operation never took place.
So what happens to the gold in your loved one’s teeth? Some funeral homes claim that they sift the gold teeth out of the ashes; the gold is then sent to a processor to be melted down, and the proceeds go to charity. Most funeral homes that I have dealt with believe that every organic part of the ashes should be placed in the urn and given back to the family. Metals such as hip and knee replacements would not be returned, but teeth would be.
I have since spoken with an agent of Consumer Protection BC regarding the legalities of selling gold to processors, who stated: “It depends on the at need contract and whether the consumer has initialed the contract. For example: if the contract stated that all precious and other metals will be removed and then sold and the money donated to charity (and it really was going to charity) it would be ok.”
The takeaway lesson here is that even if a question seems “weird” or “morbid”, if it concerns your loved one’s care at the funeral home…ask! Any funeral director who has nothing to hide will answer you honestly; this is a good litmus test for the character of a person which you should be able to trust completely.