by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
In an effort to reduce the amount of carbon emission resulting from conventional forms of cremation, undertakers have developed a process that dissolves bodies in a caustic solution, part of which could end up in the local sewer.
London’s MailOnline is reporting that the process, known as resomation, involves treating remains inside a steel chamber by submerging it in water mixed with potassium hydroxide and heating it to a temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The end result is a small quantity of green-brown liquid containing amino acids, peptides, sugars and salts, as well as soft bone matter which can be easily crushed into white ash and given to the family of the deceased. The liquid could then be “recycled back to the ecosystem” by being applied to a memorial garden or simply flushed into the sewer system.
The process, which is being championed by a number of environmental groups, is under consideration in Belgium and the U.K. It is currently legal in six U.S. states, Maine, Colorado, Florida, Oregon, Maryland and Minnesota where the Mayo Clinic uses the process to dispose of bodies donated for research.
Resomation, which comes from the Greek word “resoma” meaning “rebirth”, was developed as a solution to diminishing burial space and environmental concerns about the 573 pounds of carbon dioxide that are released by each cremated corpse.
“Resomation offers a new innovative approach which uses less energy and emits significantly less greenhouse gasses than cremation,” said Sandy Sullivan, founder of The Resomation Company.
The idea of allowing some portion of human remains to be flushed into the sewer system is hardly what some would consider to be showing proper respect for the dead.
The Catholic Church teaches that the bodies of the dead “must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection” and considers the proper burial of the dead to be a corporal work of mercy because it honors the children of God who are temples of the Holy Spirit.
While it allows autopsies to be performed for legal or scientific reasons, and condones the donation of organs after death, it allows cremation only if it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.
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