Hospitals to Post Cost of Dying

It may be only one step short of writing "Enter and Die" over hospital doors, but Moscow's city government says it has only the best of intentions in posting the cost of dying at the entrance to all of the capital's medical facilities.


The first deputy premier of the Moscow government, Boris Nikolsky, signed an order Thursday making it mandatory for all hospitals, polyclinics and physical therapy centers and other medical facilities to advertise the prices of morgue, funeral and gravestone costs at their doors.


The city says it is not trying to scare anyone and is only being informative.


"True, it's not the greatest thing to see when you're coming in for a checkup," said Lyudmila Ushakova of the Department of the Consumer and Service Markets, which drafted the order.


"But we feel people should be informed as to their rights."


According to Nikolsky's office, the order was drafted so that Muscovites, particularly the poor and the elderly, would know when and if they were entitled to free burial services.


A spokeswoman for Nikolsky said invalids and veterans of World War II were among a number of different groups who were entitled to free burials or cost reductions.


Burial costs in Moscow are still relatively cheap, compared to prices in Western countries.


According to Ushakova, a basic headstone costs about 300,000 rubles ($70), cremation costs about 500,000 rubles, and a grave site at an inexpensive location costs about 600,000 to 700,000 rubles.


Those are very steep prices for most Russians, but they pale in comparison to the hundreds and thousands of dollars that are usually paid in the West.


Igor Fyodorov, deputy director of the Vagankovskoye cemetery, said that while he was glad people would be informed ahead of time about prices, he saw little reason for the government order.


"I guess on the one hand, you have to wonder why they did it," Fyodorov said.


"I mean, it's not like people will intentionally transfer to another hospital just to pay a little less in fees than they would pay somewhere else."


Ushakova, however, said the government was trying to protect consumers from exorbitant prices offered by private burial firms.


She said each hospital and clinic is aligned with a regional state cemetery that offers state-regulated prices for services.


"There are many people out there who don't even suspect that they have rights and that the government has established minimum prices which taxpayers are entitled to pay," she said.


The spokeswoman for Nikolsky's office said the signs would begin appearing at hospitals in early September.


Nikolsky, whose cemetery has already begun preparing price lists, added that the shock effect of the signs did not worry him too much.


"Most people understand that they are going to die sooner or later," he said.


"I don't think there will be too much surprise."