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JAMA 100 Years Ago
November 3, 2004


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2004;292(17):2162. doi:10.1001/jama.292.17.2162-b

Notwithstanding the popular jocosity on the subject, there is no special relationship or alliance between the medical profession and the undertakers. The latter profit by our failures and their business suffers by our success. We can not, however, indifferently and complacently regard the recent proposal by the president of the New York State Embalmers’ Association that a law be passed prohibiting burials at sea. The mercenary spirit of the proposition is evident, and its insanitary character is also sufficiently clear. The only possible objection to a sea burial, aside from personal and sentimental ones, is the loss to the soil of the fertilizing constituents of the human organism, and that is too utterly absurd to notice. On the other hand, the retention of bodies on a ship, often with very imperfect means of preservation, and especially in the case of death from certain diseases, might be extremely dangerous. Still, the passage of such laws is a possibility. Similar gems of commercial cupidity appear sometimes on our law books, but they can usually have a SORT of pseudo-sanitary or other claim for excuse, which is wanting for the above-mentioned proposition.