To: House Human Services Committee
From: Christopher T. Dodson, Executive Director
Subject: House Bill 1294 - Alkaline Hydrolysis for Disposal of Human Remains
Date: January 24, 2017

The North Dakota Catholic Conference opposes those portions of House Bill 1294 that allow the use of alkaline hydrolysis to dispose of human remains.

Alkaline hydrolysis reduces the human body to bone ash and a liquid substance through a chemical reaction. While the bone ashes might be returned to the decedent's family, the liquid substance that is produced in the process, which can amount to 300 gallons, is usually flushed into the public waste system.

Every human person has an innate dignity that calls for the remains of every deceased person to be treated with the upmost respect. Reverence and respect for human remains are important principles which have been reflected in society down through the ages. These principles are also reflected in North Dakota laws that govern how human remains are to be treated.

Alkaline hydrolysis fails to provide North Dakota citizens with the reverence and respect they should receive by the end of their lives.

We are also concerned about the lack of procedural and environmental oversight in the bill. The bill makes no distinction between created or entombed remains and hydrolyzed remains, although the procedures and the remains are entirely different. Only a handful of states have allowed alkaline hydrolysis for the disposition of human remains and, notably, at least some of those states have legalized it only with significant licensing, operating, and environmental oversight. The massive volume of viscous liquid, which includes acids and soaps from body fat, that would be added to our water treatment systems through alkaline hydrolysis is reason alone to not lump the process in with other methods of disposition.(1)

We urge the committee to give a Do Not Pass recommendation to HB 1294 or remove those sections that would allow alkaline hydrolysis because they fail to provide North Dakota citizens with the reverence and respect they should receive at the end of their lives and because it lacks important regulatory and environmental oversight.

1. See “Confessions of a Funeral Director”;