N.H. May Authorize Alternative to Cremation
Concord — New Hampshire’s House gave preliminary approval yesterday to a new idea in mortuary science that would allow bodies to be dissolved into a soapy liquid as an alternative to cremation.
The Legislature voted to allow the process in 2006, but reversed itself the next year and banned it. An attempt to lift the ban failed in 2009. The House voted 257-113 yesterday to ask a committee to review the disposal process.
Supporters argued the process is allowed in nine or 10 other states now and has a proven science behind it. Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, the bill’s prime sponsor, said it is a matter of individual choice.
“Government should not be telling me what to do with my remains,” he said.
Opponents called it undignified to flush the liquid remains into the sewer.
Rep. Donald LeBrun, R-Nashua, asked if the state wanted to “send granny, dad, mom or an uncle down the sewer to end up as fertilizer.”
“Is it dignified to have your body go into an incineration oven and have it burn and burn?” responded Vaillancourt, R-Manchester.
Rep. Lawrence Kappler, R-Raymond, described in detail the tissues that would dissolve into the liquid and objected that the residue, a greenish brown liquid resembling pea soup, would be flushed down the sewer system like a beef stew.
But Rep. Laurie Harding, D-Lebanon, said the effluent contains less bacteria than body wastes and produces fewer emissions than cremation.
The process — known as alkaline hydrolysis — uses lye, 300-degree heat and 60 pounds of pressure per square inch to destroy bodies in big stainless-steel cylinders. It leaves behind a coffee-colored liquid with the consistency of motor oil and a strong ammonia smell.
The process was developed about 20 years ago as a way of getting rid of animal carcasses.