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When Is It Acceptable to Profit From Death? Readers Weigh In

The story of Joseph Caramadre – a wealthy Rhode Island attorney and philanthropist – pushes the boundaries of how much we are willing to put a price on death.

Update, Nov. 19: In a plea agreement, Joseph Caramadre and Raymour Radhakrishnan each pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy.

Update, Aug. 29: Jake Bernstein has rounded up answers to some of your questions on the Caramadre story here.

Couples and families spend money in the aftermath of the death of a loved one every day. Wills are written, life insurance policies purchased, caskets chosen, hospice bills paid and funerals arranged – all transactions that help drive an industry around  end of life issues. But the story of Joseph Caramadre – a wealthy Rhode Island attorney and philanthropist -- raises an interesting question: Is it OK to make a profit off of somebody dying?

As ProPublica’s Jake Bernstein reports, Caramadre is facing federal charges after exploiting a loophole in variable annuities (check out this graphic or listen to this week's This American Life for details of the scheme). On the one hand, Caramadre points out that funeral homes, florists and many others make a profit around death. But at least some family members whose loved ones took money from Caramadre now say he went too far.

Take a look at these two perspectives, taken from depositions in the criminal case against Caramadre, and then let us know how you’d answer the question:

'I know that my wife had the best time of her life because of what they did'


'My body is going to be sold without my wife getting a dime'

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