When death occurs, the first thing that has to be decided upon is the means of body disposal. In Canada, when we consider typical ways to deal with dead bodies, we usually are thinking about burial and cremation. The reason for this is that these methods have been around for a long period of human history (See Chapter on Historical Beliefs and Death-Related Practices). The actual practices have changed substantially over time, however, with burial and cremation practices today differing from ancient or older rituals. Currently, there is a revival of more traditional versions of some of these methods of body disposal, reflected in what is referred to as the green burial or funeral industry. There are also some newer technological advances that provide alternative means of body disposal, some of which address concerns for environment and reducing our environmental footprint at the end of our lives. This chapter explores the options available for body disposal at the end of life, drawing attention to some of the problems associated with conventional and/or current body disposal practices.
After completing the chapter materials, you should have an understanding of:
- The differences between conventional practices for dealing with bodies and their precursors in human history.
- Conventional options for dealing with bodies and the problems associated with these practices.
- Alternative options for dealing with bodies and the benefits of some of these practices.
- The green burial movement.
Questions to Think About When Completing Chapter Materials
- What are some of the pros and cons associated with conventional methods of dealing with dead bodies?
- What are the challenges the world is facing due to the way we deal with bodies at the end of life?
- Why are certain environmentally sustainable and cost-effective options for dealing with bodies not as widely known and used, while more damaging and costly options are common practice?
- Think about what you might want done with your body following death. What is the basis of your choice? How is it impacted by your culture and religion (See Chapter on Cultural and Religious Beliefs and Death Related Practices)?