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29 November 2012

Ed Buttrey’s Dissolving Dad Act of 2013

Put off by the thought of burying or cremating Dad? Not ready to commit him — or just his head — to join Ted Williams in cryo storage? Well, there might be another way out, thanks to State Senator Edward Buttrey (R-Great Falls). Buttrey has requested LC0226, a bill to “Authorize alkaline hydrolysis as a means of final disposition.” I suspect it will become better known as Montana’s Dissolving Dad Act of 2013.

That’s because alkaline hydrolysis dissolves Dad’s remains in hot lye (sodium hydroxide), after which you can flush them down the drain, just like what can be done with dead sick cows.

ABC News describes the straightforward industrial chemistry employed:

The process is called alkaline hydrolysis and was developed in this country 16 years ago to get rid of animal carcasses. It uses lye, 300-degree heat and 60 pounds of pressure per square inch to destroy bodies in big stainless-steel cylinders that are similar to pressure cookers.

No funeral homes in the U.S. — or anywhere else in the world, as far as the equipment manufacturer knows — offer it. In fact, only two U.S. medical centers use it on human bodies, and only on cadavers donated for research.

Dissolving Dad is legal in Minnesota, where the Mayo Clinic uses it. And New Hampshire is deciding whether to legalize the practice.

But, as ABC News notes, winning approval involves a not inconsequential public relations problem:

Getting the public to accept a process that strikes some as ghastly may be the biggest challenge. Psychopaths and dictators have used acid or lye to torture or erase their victims, and legislation to make alkaline hydrolysis available to the public in New York state was branded “Hannibal Lecter’s bill” in a play on the sponsor’s name — Sen. Kemp Hannon — and the Silence of the Lambs movie character’s sadism.

The debate over the measure will be real world dark comedy as Montanans consider whether Grandma will be remembered for her soup in a Mason jar, or as soup in a Mason jar.

The draft of the Dissolving Dad Act of 2013 is on hold, presumably while Buttrey and his drafter, Padraic McCracken, get a better grip on the realities.