Saturday 06 March 2021

Dutch set to approve of ‘cremation by water’, new legislation next year

Photo: Niels Pluto

The government is set to approve ‘cremation by water’ as a new way of disposing of dead bodies in addition to burial and cremation, home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren has said.

Earlier this year, the national health council recommended that the new method which involves dissolving the body via alkaline hydrolysis be added to the list of legal methods.

Also known as resomation, or water cremation, the process is a safe and sustainable alternative to burial or cremation by fire, the health council said in May.

Resomation is based on alkaline hydrolysis: the body is placed in a pressurised vessel that is then filled with a mixture of water and lye, and heated to around 160 degrees. The elevated pressure prevents the body boiling. Instead, the body is broken down into its chemical components, which takes four to six hours.

The process was patented in the US in 1888 and is legal in some US states and other countries but not in the Netherlands.

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Ollongren pledged in January 2019 that the Dutch rules on funerals would be modernised following pressure from D66 MPs and said she expects to put the legislation out to consultation next year.

The legislation may include an end to the stipulation that bodies be buried after a wait of at least 36 hours after death. According to Jewish and Islamic tradition, people should be buried as soon as possible after death.

Families may also be able to pick up urns containing the ashes of their relatives from crematoria earlier than the current one-month wait.

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