Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Mary Roach
I think I give this book a 3 star rating. Morbidly fascinating. There were definitely times when it made me squirm and feel sick. I could have done without the chapter on cannibalism entirely. I felt like it was just thrown in for shock value and didn't really add to the material in the rest of the book. But I couldn't stop listening. I learned a LOT. There was quite a bit of history about medicine and surgery and all sorts of things. I learned a new alternative to burial vs. cremation, for which I would definitely be inclined to, were my religious beliefs different. So this "new" method (as of early 2000's) is to have the body dipped in liquid nitrogen, completely eliminated of all water content, the bones broken down into smaller pieces (nearly ash-like), and placed in a bio-degradable cornstarch box that can be planted with a memorial tree or shrubbery and will provide nourishment (in a compost like manner) to the memorial plant. I like that idea much better than liquifying inside a coffin, or being cremated. The pros to this newer method are that it's cheaper and more environmentally friendly in numerous ways: no air pollutants (including mercury from the deceased's dental fillings) did you know that crematoriums are not regulated like any other factory that releases pollutants and regulated by the EPA? They release really harmful chemicals, but to be regulated by the EPA, they'd have to be classified as solid waste disposal plants, and no one wants human remains be classified (and thus undignified) as solid waste. I did not know this. It's more cost effective ($20 vs $80) when you cost analyze the main ingredient for disposal. And then the idea is to have a memorial park instead of graveyard, which puts more plants on the earth. I'm not an environmentalist by any stretch of the imagination. But I do kind of like the slightly romanticized notion of returning to the dust of the earth in such a literal way. I'm pretty sure I don't want to donate my remains for science. Mostly because you cannot specify what you want to be used for. You could be used as a cadaver crash test dummy, or anatomy labs, or something entirely different. I am certainly an organ donor, and up to now, I have excluded my eyes from this, however I'm starting to wonder if I ought to reconsider since nothing-even embalming-lasts close to forever.
Anyhow, it was quite enlightening and made me think. Which I do like. The narrator's voice was just sardonic enough to make it really work. However, I think I might have been more comfortable with a written copy so I could gloss over certain sections that I didn't really care to know about in such detail.