Fort Wayne ‘death doula’ forced to close business, suing Indiana AG’s office

Published: Aug. 31, 2023 at 7:14 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - A Fort Wayne woman is suing the Indiana Attorney General’s office after they shut down her ‘death doula’ business. The state claims she can’t operate without a funeral director’s license.

Lauren Richwine owns a business called Death Done Differently. She says she’s a ‘death doula’ or ‘death midwife’ and helps families navigate the death of their loved one. This means anything from answering questions about death, navigating paperwork, or connecting them with grief counselors.

In 2021, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office received a complaint wondering why Richwine doen’t have a funeral director’s license. Then in August, the State Board of Funeral and Cemetery Service filed a cease-and-desist order against Richwine and her business. They forced her to close her business.

A press conference was held in Fort Wayne Thursday where Richwine announced she will be challenging this decision. She and her attorneys have filed a federal lawsuit against the AG’s office stating they violated her First Ammendment rights of freedom of speech.

“Our office previously negotiated a successful cease and desist settlement after we received a licensing complaint in this funeral matter. We are aware of the filing in federal court this week and will continue vigorously fighting to protect Hoosiers and their families.”

Indiana Attorney General's Office

State law says the practice of funeral service includes “the counseling of individuals concerning methods and alternatives for the final disposition of human remains.”

The AG’s office says she needs to obtain her license in order to keep operating. However, Richwine says she doesn’t believe she needs a license because she doesn’t do the same work as a funeral director such as embalming or burial services. She says getting this license would require her to go to school to learn how to become a mortician and then own a funeral home. She says that’s not what her business is meant to do.