Dutch open to dissolving bodies as funeral alternative; Composting not yet
Alkaline hydrolysis, in which human remains are dissolved in a heated liquid, could be an alternative to burial or cremation, the Dutch Health Council concluded after looking into new techniques of funeral services on behalf of the Ministry Home Affairs. There is not yet enough information available on human composting to consider this a real option, the Health Council said in report on Monday.
The Netherlands' Funeral Services Act states that the bodies of our dead can be buried, cremated, or donated to science. Under exceptional circumstances, a seaman's grave is also permitted. But given new emerging techniques, the Interior Ministry asked the Health Council to look into new forms of funeral services.
A special committee was formulated to examine this "ethically, religiously and socially sensitive issue," the Health Council said. "It confined itself to the provision of funeral services in the strict sense of the word, as part of the funeral process surrounded by numerous ritual acts."
The Health Council came up with three requirements these techniques must meet to be considered a viable option, based on existing laws and regulations and accepted practices in both national and international society. The three requirements are that the method must be safe, it must be dignified, and it must be sustainable.
"In the committee's opinion, alkaline hydrolysis basically meets the conditions set," the Health Council said. This technique compares favorably with burial and cremation in terms of sustainability. Though the technical specifications will have to be further assessed if this technique is allowed, the committee said.
Human composting, in which the deceased's body is placed in carbon-rich material and broken down by bacteria and converted into compost, is not yet a viable option. "As yet insufficient information is available to assess human composting on the basis of the established conditions," the committee said.