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ACTEC Law Journal

Article Title

Alkaline Hydrolysis

Abstract

Hollywood has developed its own villainous death disposition trope that is often a link in a nefarious narrative chain—disposition of human remains through some form of chemical dissolution. Spanning decades and genre, popular cinema and television have warmly embraced liquification of the dead, including but not limited to The Wizard of Oz, House on Haunted Hill, Thief, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Point of No Return, Palmetto, Walker, Texas Ranger, NCIS, Bones, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Dexter, Blacklist, Homeland, Elementary, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Ozark, Rick and Morty. The specifics vary dramatically from one work of fiction to the next but the common thread of the trope is the immutability of the erasure. Although the storyline typically ambles onward, the decedent is eliminated in a way that leaves no trace.

Although incineration-based cremation is more environmentally friendly than traditional burial, it falls short of being ideal because of the energy required and air emissions produced. Alkaline hydrolysis or liquid cremation is a clean, green alternative to fire-based cremation, using only 10% of the energy and producing no air emissions. It is a process that essentially liquifies a corpse, leaving behind bones that can be ground to produce ash and returned to loved ones. Alkaline hydrolysis is legal for commercial use in twenty states as of 2020. The purpose of this Essay is to consider the way in which the law is being leveraged to obstruct this innovative death technology from being more broadly available to consumers.

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