When a person passes away, families usually have three options when it comes to making a decision about their remains. They can opt for a burial, pick a cremation, or some families choose to donate their loved one’s body to science.
A video by Wired, which was first released in 2017 but is gaining attention online right now, said that burials and cremations could soon be a thing of the past. In fact, more dead bodies will be dissolved in future, according to Dean Fischer, director of the Donated Body Program UCLA and the David Geffen School of Medicine.
In the clip, Fischer appeared on camera from inside a lab where bodies are currently being dissolved. He explained how the Resomator machine works, describing that rather than burning the body like a regular cremation, it actually uses alkaline hydrolysis to dissolve flesh. The new process is said to be cleaner than the current methods used in cremation.
“So we bring the bodies down from the seventh floor and we place them onto this tray here,” he explained. “One person can easily handle the tray. The tray pulls out, we slide the body in, we wrap them in bio-plastic.”
Fischer said that the bodies were completely naked and that boiling water was used inside the machine to speed up the natural process of body decomposition. “What happens is it dissolves the body over the course of a three to four-hour timeframe and then the fluid goes over to the accumulation tank and then the bone and any other prosthetics that are left over are on the tray when we open up the unit,” he said.
Everything from pacemakers and stents aren’t actually dissolved and remain unscathed after the dissolving. He explained that this process of cremation is different from traditional flame forms because it doesn’t break down these potentially toxic materials including bone cement and hernia mesh. When burnt, they can create carbon dioxide that is released into the environment.
Following the dissolving of the flesh, remaining bones are then left in a room to dry out at room temperature. It can take up to five days for the bones to dry before they are processed in a regular cremulator to grind them to ash. When complete, the ashes are pure white and ready for families to take home or scatter as they please.
“This by far is the most environmentally friendly choice out of all the choices that are out there,” Fischer said. “And someday I just want everybody to know I’m going to donate my body to science so I can end up this way also.”
The news comes after fears that there won’t be enough space to bury people in the near future. In Australia, the New South Wales government recently proposed a plan to reuse burial plots after 25 years. That plan would see grave spots rented for 25 years, with families given the option to extend tenancy for up to 99 years. If the lease wasn’t extended, the plot would be vacated so another body could occupy it.
Furthermore, a UK funeral home is considering an eco-friendly cremation that would see bodies frozen at -200°C before being pulverised into powder.