Championing End-of-Life Guidance in Indiana

March 8, 2024
Care Models
3 min
Sam Madison, COO

In a society where discussions about death often evoke discomfort, Lauren Richwine, a lifelong resident of Fort Wayne, Indiana, stands out as a beacon of courage and compassion. As the founder of Death Done Differently, LLC, Lauren specializes in offering end-of-life guidance to individuals grappling with terminal diagnoses and their families. Her approach emphasizes embracing the reality of mortality, fostering healthy grieving processes, and ensuring that clients and their loved ones are equipped for the journey ahead.

Lauren's services extend beyond traditional funeral planning, encompassing a comprehensive array of support tasks. From assisting with medical power of attorney assignments to navigating funeral options and crafting legacy letters, she provides a holistic approach to end-of-life planning. Additionally, Lauren educates families about alternative burial practices such as home funerals and green burials, empowering them to make choices aligned with their values and beliefs.

Despite the immense value of her work, Lauren has encountered legal roadblocks from the state of Indiana. In January 2023, the Attorney General's office sought a cease-and-desist order, insisting that Lauren obtain funeral director and funeral home licenses to continue her practice. Subsequently, in August of the same year, the State Board of Funeral and Cemetery Service issued a gag order, further impeding Lauren's ability to offer vital end-of-life guidance to her clients.

These regulatory challenges stem from Indiana's classification of Lauren's work within the realm of traditional funeral home services, despite its distinctive nature. While Lauren's role primarily involves speech—engaging in conversations, providing explanations, and drafting plans—Indiana mandates compliance with licensing requirements tailored for funeral directors, necessitating irrelevant training and infrastructure.

Lauren firmly maintains that her work is protected by the First Amendment. She contends that Indiana's attempts to stifle her speech and curtail her capacity to assist families facing end-of-life decisions constitute unconstitutional infringements on her fundamental rights.

In response to these legal hurdles, Lauren has taken decisive action. With the support of the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit law firm dedicated to defending civil liberties, she filed a lawsuit in federal court in August. Through this legal challenge, Lauren seeks to uphold her First Amendment right to freely discuss death and continue her mission of guiding families through the end-of-life process with empathy and integrity.

This fight transcends individual interests—it underscores the importance of safeguarding the ability of all individuals to engage in meaningful end-of-life discussions without undue governmental interference. As she presses forward with her legal battle, Lauren remains unwavering in her commitment to championing the principles of free speech and ensuring that every individual has the opportunity to approach death with dignity and preparedness.

Join our friends at INELDA and NEDA on April 4th when they host a conversation with the legal team that is at the forefront of defending end-of-life doula practices. Ben Field and Christian Lansinger from the Institute for Justice will share their knowledge around recent legal challenges threatening rights to free speech and to earn an honest living.