House Bill 3158 would allow for a new form of final disposition of deceased human remains through a process known as “natural organic reduction” or “human composting.” During this process, the body is placed in a container with organic material that assist in its decomposition into soil over about 30 to 45 days. This in only legal in three states; we ask lawmakers to oppose this legislation.
Intentionally using human remains as fertilizer through human composting should not be a legal means of final disposition. Traditional forms of final disposition, such as burial, keep the remains together and encourage family members and religious communities to pray for and remember the dead. The burial of the dead is one of the corporal works of mercy and for many Christians, a sign of faith and hope in the Resurrection.
In addition, the state recognizes the importance of providing burials or cremation for indigent persons through the Funeral and Burial Expenses program under the Illinois Department of Human Services. However, when funds are not available for burial of an indigent person or a person remains unclaimed, the Disposition of the Remains of the Indigent Act allows for donation of the body to science, which is becoming more common. By allowing for human composting under this bill, bodies donated to science may be composted solely at the discretion of the entity receiving the donation. It is essential that any change to state law on methods of final disposition continues to respect the disposition of indigent deceased persons, especially by preventing those who did not choose it in life to be disposed of as fertilizer.
Cemeteries, whether they be municipal, religious, or fraternal, have existed for centuries; in the United States, many were established even before the founding of our nation. They can be beautiful gathering spaces with sound record-keeping practices and appropriate regulatory oversight. Cemeteries can help to unify generations and thereby benefit families, communities, and society at large.
By contrast, turning human persons into compost for the purpose of fertilization of trees, as one would with vegetable trimmings and eggshells, degrades the human person. Cremation and burial, on the other hand, allow for a person to be wholly laid to rest in a sacred place thus respecting the dignity of that person.
The state has many laws concerning the disposition of human bodies for a reason — because society has always understood that the human body should be treated with respect and dignity. We oppose any tendency to minimize the event of human death and the meaning it has for humanity.