Letters to the Editor

Thinking outside the box

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Dear Editor

The RSA Daily for 31 October included an article titled, ‘Coffin? Casket? Cremation? How to make your death more environmentally friendly’, taken from The Conversation.

The elaborate and expensive containers in common use retard the process of decomposition of bodies and occupy valuable land that's becoming scarce in some areas. The timber from which coffins and caskets are made, plus the metal hinges and handles, are too valuable a resource to be disposed of, wastefully, as we do. Global population increases will only exacerbate this problem.

Fortunately, Australia hasn’t (yet) reached the excesses of the US, as satirised in the Tom Paxton song Forest Lawn.

The article suggests solutions, but several others are available.

We could choose to think of the human body as simply a container that holds the person while alive, effectively preventing the contents from spilling out over the floor. But, post-mortem, the body is akin to an empty beer bottle. So let’s try to get some further use from it.

Many years ago I decided to donate my body for the use of medical students. At the end of my useful ‘afterlife’, any remains will be cremated and the ashes will be disposed of at the discretion of the university. (There was an option for the ashes to be presented to my daughters, but we jointly decided...


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