HB 773: No aqua cremation of human remains

Testimony provided by Jennifer Carr Allmon

We oppose this bill because it allows for the aqua cremation of human remains using alkaline hydrolysis. The dehydration of human remains in a vat of chemicals is disrespectful of the human body and does not allow for burial of the body.

Treating the dead with respect is a duty of the living and a right of the dead and this bill fails to treat the dead with respect. Proponents of alkaline hydrolysis claim that the result is similar to that of cremation with some remains of bones able to be buried. What they fail to explain is that there is also a large volume of liquid, approximately 100 gallons, in which the rest of the body has been dissolved. Usually the liquid is poured into the sewer.

On a basic level, traditional cremation and aqua cremation introduce a chemical reaction to speed up the decomposition of the human body, but they introduce the remnants back into the world in drastically different manners.

In the incineration method, the gaseous remains of the chemical reaction are introduced directly back into the atmosphere. But in alkaline hydrolysis, the liquid remains are poured down the drain. This is exactly the practice that the Legislature last session ended for unborn children.

For this committee to approve of this method of disposition would be a direct contradiction to the state’s profound respect for human life and human remains as expressed by other laws.

Proponents also claim this procedure has a reduced carbon footprint. If a dehydration process is added to this to avoid pouring the liquid remains down the sewer, it would negate any comparative ecological advantage.

Finally, some may claim this process is a less expensive method of disposal of human remains. Respect and reverence for human bodies must not be sacrificed for a cheaper, quicker disposition for medical research facilities. We must treat the remains of all human beings, no matter how long they lived or how they died, with dignity, charity, and respect. Chemical digestion of the human body fails to follow this simple principle.

Our respect for the dignity of the dead is an extension of our respect for the dignity of the living.  People with and without faith have always understood this. This respect conforms practices of people of goodwill across the world, who treat the dead with respect and charity.