A great recent piece in VICE about Caitlin Doughty and her new The New York Times Best Selling book From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death. In the VICE piece, she mentions that we have had long conversations about desecration of human remains. (You know, the normal stuff that people chat about.) Come to think of it, we have had long conversations about topics that many people may find somewhat disturbing…
From the VICE piece:
“A lot of those contextually normal ceremonies from the book you’re mentioning might be seen as grisly to some readers. So where do you draw the line between ritual and desecration of a corpse? And how do you feel about our legal system’s take on what constitutes desecration in general?
This is an area I’m fascinated by, and I’ve had long conversations about this with Tanya Marsh, a law professor at Wake Forest and the expert on human remains law in the United States.
Each state has a different definition of what constitutes desecration, and they’re all so vague. It’ll be something like “desecration of a corpse is something that goes against our sacred understanding of body care.” What does that even mean?
There’s a company now that removes corpse tattoos. They launched a contract with funeral homes so that the director makes an incision around the tattoo and sends that skin in to be preserved by this company. The survivors can keep that as art. And [Marsh] argues that that goes against desecration of corpse laws because chopping up a corpse, except for medical purposes, is something we don’t agree with in America.
But it’s always changing. For a long time, people thought that cremation was desecration. For me, it comes down to whether or not you’re doing something that deeply offends the sensibilities of the family.”