The Wake Forest Law Review 2024 Spring Symposium hosted panels and presentations to discuss The Future of Death Care in America on Friday, March 1, 2024.

Livestreamed from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the symposium brought together leaders in the death-care industry, academics and influential reformers to discuss key issues facing the rapidly evolving changes in death care. Presenters shared their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities the funeral service faces now and in the future, including the Funeral Rule, new disposition methods, and licensure of funeral directors. A total of 780 people registered for the event, attending in person or via livestream and recordings.

Keynote speaker Caitlin Doughty opened the day with an overview of current and future trends in death care. A mortician, writer and advocate for funeral industry reform, Doughty is the founder of the nonprofit The Order of the Good Death, which helped spawn the death positive movement and is working to legalize human composting and aquamation in all 50 states.

The program began with Panel One: Regulating New Methods of Disposition. Moderated by funeral director descendent and Virginia Tech Professor Phil Olson, the first session explored how new methods of disposition are legalized and regulated and how the process might be improved in the future. The panel included Victoria J. Haneman, professor of trusts and estates and associate dean of research and innovation at Creighton University School of Law; Barbara Kemmis, executive director of the Cremation Association of North America; and Katrina Spade, founder and CEO of Recompose, the world’s first human composting company.

Next up was a look at Abandoned Cemeteries. This was an overview of a project to map and repair cemeteries in North Carolina, presented by Terry Brock, director of the cultural heritage and archaeology research group at Wake Forest University.

Panel Two: Licensing Funeral Directors, moderated by retired Kenyon College Professor David Harrington, examined the challenges and opportunities presented by licensure in death care. Panelists included Hari P. Close, II, founder and CEO of Hari P. Close Funeral Services in Baltimore, Maryland, and past president of the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association; Renée D. Flaherty, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, which litigates constitutional cases protecting individuals from government abuse; and, Caressa Hughes, assistant vice president of government and industry relations for Service Corporation International, who has over 30 years of experience with government relations.

In the final segment, Panel Three: Consumer Protection — The Future of the Funeral Rule, panelists discussed the challenges and opportunities presented by the sole federal regulation of the funeral service profession: the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule. Moderated by Wake Forest Law Professor Tanya Marsh, who teaches the only funeral and cemetery law course in the U.S., the panelists were Isabel Knight, president of the National Home Funeral Alliance, an organization that educates families and communities to care for their own loved ones after death; Poul Lemasters, general counsel of the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association, who has over 20 years of experience in funeral service; and Sarah Pojanowski, who has served as general counsel for Selected Independent Funeral Homes for over a decade.

“In these times of contention and disagreement, it was genuinely heartening to see these seasoned experts and young aspirants meet to share serious ideas and participate in difficult discussions about the challenges ahead for our industry,”  Kemmis said. “With their diverse range of backgrounds and perspectives, participants were able to generate stimulating conversations that made for a very fruitful and thought-provoking meeting.”

As an organization committed to meeting the future head on, CANA was proud to sponsor a program with such a diverse range of perspectives on the future of death care. If you couldn’t attend the event in person or watch the livestream, you haven’t missed out! Recordings of the Symposium sessions are available at

About CANA

Founded in 1913, the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) is an international organization of over 3,700 members, composed of funeral homes, cemeteries, crematories, industry suppliers, and consultants. CANA members believe that cremation is preparation for memorialization. For more information about CANA, visit

About Wake Forest Law Review

The Wake Forest Law Review is a student-run organization that publishes five issues annually. The Law Review also sponsors symposia. The Symposium changes topics yearly. Through the publication of articles, notes, comments, and empirical legal studies, the Law Review provides the profession with timely evaluations of current problems in the law and serves students as a valuable educational tool.

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