Final indignity: No help for poor to pay burials

More than 50 years ago, a Boston attorney named Joseph N. Welch stopped Sen. Joseph McCarthy in his tracks with the words: “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” It is time to ask Gov. Bruce Rauner the same question.

It makes no sense to cut services to youth between 18 and 21, substance abusers, the mentally ill, and those with HIV, autism, and epilepsy, as the governor is doing. These cuts will cost the state more in services later than the money saved now. Not smart.

But in announcing that Illinois will no longer fund funeral and burial costs to the indigent, Gov. Rauner has crossed a special threshold of callousness.

People in the funeral business have told me that the most vulnerable are the aged who die alone, without family, in nursing homes. Their bodies very often will be turned away by funeral homes and shipped to county morgues. At that point, it is not clear what will happen.

Other cuts are larger than this $7 million line item. Some may hurt more people. But there are certain things the state should guarantee as a matter of basic decency. Burying our truly indigent with dignity is one of them.

Rev. Alexander E. Sharp
Former Executive Director, Protestants for the Common Good

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