'Sick and abhorrent': N.L. man says website tried to profit off late mother's obituary
Afterlife.co sells products and services tied to a searchable database of obituaries used without permission
A St. John's man has joined an Alberta family in questioning why a loved one's obituary was posted on a company's website without his knowledge or permission seemingly in an attempt to sell merchandise.
On Tuesday, CBC Calgary reported that a Taber, Alberta family was upset after discovering the obituary for a recently deceased family member was posted on a website called Afterlife, with options to buy gifts and flowers or light a digital, animated candle in their memory.
After reading the story, George Murphy of St. John's went to Afterlife.co and searched for his late mother's name — and sure enough her obituary, from August 2017, was there with options to buy products in her name.
It's almost like we're opening a new wound here.- George Murphy
"I was quite disturbed to find that actually. Not only was the obituary on there, but her place of death was also marked wrong on there," he told the St. John's Morning Show.
"To find that somebody else would step in and try to make money off it is actually sick and abhorrent to me."
Upset that his mom's obituary was there without the family's knowledge, Murphy contacted Afterlife and requested it be taken down, which the company did fairly quickly.
In a statement to CBC Calgary regarding its story, Afterlife said anyone is free to request that any information be edited or deleted, that two million visitors use the site in a given month — and there are fewer than 15 calls or messages from family members seeking to have obituaries removed.
Afterlife was started in January 2017 by entrepreneur Paco Leclerc, and in an email to CBC it claims nothing about the company's practices is underhanded.
"All we do is group all obituaries into one database that informs the public and allows people over distances to reach out to their family and friends during a difficult time by being able to send condolences and flowers easily and quickly all in one place," the statement read.
Murphy said it's clear the site works by mining the internet for obituaries posted by different funeral homes and newspapers around the world, and then allows them to be searchable.
While the company may claim everything is on the up and up, Murphy said his family wrote his mother's obituary specifically for the Newfoundland funeral home and to be posted in the local newspaper, not for a company to use to sell products.
"There's an awful lot of people out there who don't know this is happening to their lost loved ones, and someone seems to be making money off the venture they started here online," he said.
"It's almost like we're opening a new wound here. We're still in the mourning process after losing mom and this just makes it all that much worse that we've got to go through this again."
With files from St. John's Morning Show