Cremating Supersized Dead Bodies

Bath Cemetery Refused to Cremate Man Because He Was Too Heavy
The Bath Chronicle (December 14, 2009)

Every once in a while, a dead body story brings home the following point: all the issues that surround the living world don’t entirely stop when a person dies. Indeed, funeral directors and crematorium operators encounter most aspects of the human condition but out of sight. And most certainly out of mind.

So, it came to pass, that a UK man weighing 40 stone (560 pounds) died and he wanted to be cremated. Once he was in his coffin, his total weight became 50 stone (700 pounds) and the local crematorium said that they couldn’t take his corpse because of his size. The crematorium is in Bath (where I live) and the story was reported by both The Bath Chronicle and the BBC (Obese 40-stone Somerset man ‘too heavy to cremate’).

Correct lifting

You can read either article for the full details. Here’s the thing: this isn’t a new problem, or at least, it has been an ever increasing problem for the last ten years. In 2003, the New York Times ran the following article on Goliath Casket Company: On the Final Journey, One Size Doesn’t Fit All. Here is the gist of the article:

Perhaps nowhere is the issue of obesity in America more vividly illustrated than at Goliath Casket of Lynn, Ind., specialty manufacturers of oversize coffins.

There one can see a triple-wide coffin — 44 inches across, compared with 24 inches for a standard model. With extra bracing, reinforced hinges and handles, the triple-wide is designed to handle 700 pounds without losing what the euphemism-happy funeral industry calls its ”integrity.”

Safety Lifting

When Keith and Julane Davis started Goliath Casket in the late 1980’s, they sold just one triple-wide each year. But times, along with waistlines, have changed; the Davises now ship four or five triple-wide models a month, and sales at the company have been increasing around 20 percent annually. The Davises say they base their design specifications not on demographic studies so much as on simple observations of the world around them.

”It’s just going to local restaurants or walking in a normal Wal-Mart,” Mrs. Davis said. ”People are getting wider and they’re getting thicker.”

And even though the owners of Goliath Casket Company made these observations at the local Wal-Mart, supersized dead bodies are an increasingly common UK phenomena.

In fact, The Guardian newspaper printed the following article in 2006: Obesity is undertakers’ fresh burden.

I totally understand why the crematorium officials at the Haycombe Cemetery and Crematorium initially declined to cremate the 40 stone dead body: lifting and transporting XXXL dead bodies is potentially dangerous for the workers. Lifting an object that heavy can cause back injuries. 50 stone weightlifting (remember that that’s 700 pounds) is best left to the gym.

Ferno Maxx Cart

In the end, everything worked out because the funeral home got hold of a special cart built for transporting large dead bodies.

And this is the moral of the story: as human waistlines increase so does the demand for heavy load bearing dead body equipment.

XXXL dead bodies translate into supersized profits for some death industry sectors.

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