Cremation: The New Tradition

Cremation is a mechanical, thermal, or other dissolution process that reduces a body to basic compounds and is a typical alternative to a traditional burial. Cremation has a steady rise in popularity for numerous reasons such as:

  • Affordability
  • Flexibility
  • Environmentally Friendly
  • Fear of Natural Decomposition
  • Simpler Arrangements
  • Less stress for family members/loved ones
Four urns set on an altar

Beyond The Fire

The most common method of cremation is flame-based cremation which uses flames to reduce remains into bone fragments aka cremated remains. The other, not so common, method is alkaline hydrolysis which is a water-based dissolution process that uses alkaline chemicals, heat, agitation, and pressure to accelerate the natural decomposition. Both methods are legal and will reach the desired cremated results. Cremation typically leaves behind an average of five pounds of remains, but this will vary based on an individual’s weight because one pound of physical remains produces under one cubic inch of ash. It is important that this is taken into consideration during the time of the cremation process and when deciding on urns.

Close up of woman's hands spreading ashes

Once the cremation process is over and the cremated remains are returned, loved ones can choose whether or not to spread the ashes. When spreading ashes, it is important to know what your state requires. While you CAN spread ashes publicly, but in some cases, you need to obtain permission from the local council. If it is on private property, that is not your own, you must obtain permission from the owner. Private property can also include locations such as stadiums and amusement parks. Other places you can scatter ashes are uninhabited public lands, national parks (with a permit and in a designated area) and the ocean (within three nautical miles).

Fast Cremation Facts

  1. While cremation is an efficient process, it can still take anywhere from two to four hours for the actual cremation. Time depends on the individual’s body and other factors. The entire cremation process (transportation, storage, cremation, return) as a whole takes about 10-15 business days.
  2. Holding burials after cremation is a common tradition. Some cemeteries will allow urns to be buried in a plot while others require the use of an urn vault.
  3. Cremation has been around for quite some time. It is suspected that the earliest case of cremation was during the early Stone Age – around 3000 B.C.
  4. Ashes can be stored in columbarium, a structure used to pay respect and house funeral urns allowing family members and loved ones to be able to visit whenever.

Urns, The Treasured Remembrance

Urns, like caskets, come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and themes. When choosing how to honor a loved one, it is important to be aware of all the different options. Currently, some of the more popular kinds of urns are keepsake, biodegradable, companion, veteran, picture, and art.

Woman selecting an urn in a funeral home

Keepsake Urns are smaller in size and are typically used for families who want to share cremated remains of loved ones between multiple people. Keepsake urns are also common after an initial spread of the ashes if the family decides to keep a portion. They range from 1 – 50 cubic inches compared to the typical two hundred cubic inches of a standard urn.

Biodegradable Urns are urns that are made from non-toxic, ecologically-sound materials that will eventually break down naturally in nature. Materials can range from mulberry bark, bamboo, plant materials, wood, paper, cornstarch, organic compost, or natural clay.

Companion Urns are exactly what their name implies, a way to store the cremated remains of two people. They can come in either single or double compartments and are typically used to memorialize couples who want to remain together after death.

Veteran Urns pays tribute to members of the Armed Forces. These urns are specifically designed with patriotic and military themes and are specific to the branch of service the deceased represented.

Picture Urns look like photo frames but have a hidden chamber to store ashes of a loved one. Photos for these specific urns can either be laser etched on to the urn itself or there it is placed in a frame like normal. It is important to remember if you chose the laser etched option that the photo you pick is clear and focused.

Art Urns are a way to mix fine art with the cremated remains of a loved one. Art urns have the endless limitations of art itself. They can be made of materials such as glass, bronze or ceramics and can be created to fit any desired taste.

An Introduction To Terminology

Now when taking part of the cremation process there is plenty of terminology introduced to families. While most of it is self-explanatory, it is important to be familiar with it to make the process easier to understand and go through in general. This terminology includes but is not limited to:

Authorizing Agent: the person(s) legally entitled to control the disposition of the cremated remains.

Direct Cremation: a cremation that happens without any formal viewing

Cremated Remains: the remains of the cremated body after completion of the cremation process.

Cremation Chamber: the enclosed space where cremation takes place.

Crematorium: this building houses the cremation chambers, administrative offices, mortuary prep rooms and cemetery maintenance.

Cremation Interment Container: A rigid outer container that is composed of concrete, steel, fiberglass, plastic, or some similar material in which an urn is placed prior to being interred in the ground, and which is designed to withstand prolonged exposure to the elements and to support the earth above the urn.

Disposition: The shipment, burial, cremation, or anatomical donation of the human body.

Final Disposition: The burial or other disposition of a dead human body or cremated remains.

General Price List (GPL): contains identifying information, itemized prices for the various goods and services sold, and other important disclosures.

Inurnment: The ceremony of burying an urn containing cremated remains.

Processing: the pre-pulverization process of removing any foreign materials from the cremated remains in preparation for pulverization.

Pulverization: the reduction of identifiable bone fragments after the completion of the cremation and processing to granulated particles by manual or mechanical means.

Urn: A structure designed to permanently encase the cremated remains.

Considering Cremation?

End-of-life discussions are never easy especially when it comes to loved ones. If you or a loved one has expressed interest in cremation, be sure to cover areas with authorized agents such as methods of cremation, whether you want to go through a whole body donation program or funeral home, urn styles and any wishes you have for your cremated remains.

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Research For Life - Understanding Whole Body Donor Consent

Hello, my name is Garland Shreves, CEO of Research For Life. I want to take a moment to discuss some very basic information with you regarding consent forms, in general, that you may encounter when considering to donate to a whole body donor organization.

First and foremost, you need to understand and read the consent form, also known as the authorization form or document of gift, so you know what you are consenting to.  Ask questions of the organization if you don’t understand something. 

 All states require, under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, that consent be granted by an authorized agent of the donor or self-authorization before death.

Each state defines who in the consenting class has the most authority to direct donation. Such as the medical power of attorney, spouse, children, grandchildren, siblings, etc. and differs slightly in each state. 

Consent may be given by means of a verbal recorded consent or by a written document of gift.

Research For Life uses a written consent form which can be found on our website.

Understand that the donor or authorizing agent is giving the body to an organization. Once given it belongs to the organization to use in accordance with the consent form.

In other words, the donor organization is free to use the donor provided it does so within the terms

of the consent, it may not use the donor in a manner not consented too.  

The consent may state how the body may be used.  Educational and/or research purposes or some other purpose may be stated or in the discretion of the donor organization.

Research For Life provides cadavers and/or anatomical specimens for education and research purposes and does not do ballistic testing.

The consent may state that the body will be used in whole or in parts. It may also state that the anatomical parts may be used domestically and or internationally.

And most consents will cover some basic things like consent to test the donor for diseases and order medical records to help best determine the medical suitability for the donation.

The consent may also touch on issues like for profit or nonprofit status and if the donor or anatomical specimens will be used by one or more or both types of entities.  Remember that regardless of an organizations tax status they all charge fees to end users who order anatomical specimens and offer those specimens to both for profit and nonprofit entities.

From the very start of the donation process costs to the donor organization begin. 24-hour answering service, transport team to respond 24/7, qualified trained staff paid a livable wage with benefits and retirement, electric, gas, phone, insurances, building payments, maintenance, medical director, and regulatory requirements, and cremation fees. And these are just some of the expenses that an organization may have to cover.

Another item you may see on most authorization forms is a release of liability, a hold harmless agreement, excluding misconduct of course.  

Research For Life states clearly it will not and donor or agent agrees that Research For Life will not be held responsible for acts of third parties in connection with the donation.

Another item that reduces a donor organizations liability is the Anatomical Gift Act prohibits criminal, civil or administrative actions provided there is no intentional misconduct on the part of the donor organization. In other words, if the donor organization acted in good faith it is immune and provided some protection from lawsuits.

Another important part on a consent form is the person signing the authorization attests (affirms) that they have the authority to direct the donation. The donor organization accepts the authorizing agent’s authority in good faith barring any information known to it at the time of donation that would contradict the authority of the person authorizing donation.    

Remember, should you decide to register, tell your family and friends about your decision.

Also, the donation authorization form is not valid until notarized or signed by two witnesses; one witness must be non-family or disinterested party. 

Consent forms contain other important information that you need to read and understand.

All documents of gift or authorizations can be cancelled prior to death.

I want to thank you for taking the time to watch this video and I hope it helped provide you with some basic information regarding whole body donation consent forms.  Thank you.