Some unusual facts about body disposal

Some unusual facts about body disposal

Here are some interesting facts about body disposal. Some of them might surprise you:


You do not have to accept the responsibility of disposing of a body if you are unable to. Legally, the next of kin, or the person appointed to act on behalf of the deceased is responsible for the body disposal. However, if this person is unable financially to do so the local authorities must provide a Public Health Funeral.  Additionally, if no-one accepts responsibility for the body, the state must do so. They may be able to claim expenses against the estate of the deceased.

Possession of the body

The appointed person can take possession of the body immediately after death. If the person dies at home they can remain there, or if death occurs in a hospital or hospice you can take them home. In English common law, a dead body is not the property of anyone,  “the only lawful possessor of a corpse is the earth.” The person who takes possession of the body does not own it.


Legally you are not required to employ an undertaker, however, if you engage his services you must pay him. An undertaker is only your agent, you are actually responsible for disposing of the body. An undertaker can make the process easier to deal with, but be sure to sign a contract stating exactly what goods and services he will provide. Undertakers are currently not subject to any statutory rules, however, consumer protection laws protect your rights and you can find out more about this here.


You do not need a coffin. A dead body must be covered from view and cannot be displayed naked in public. This could result in prosecution as an outrage to public decency. However, normal clothes, a sheet, shroud, or blanket are sufficient covering.


A funeral is not a legal requirement.

Disposal methods

You do not have to have to bury or cremate a dead body. If you wish you can preserve the body using a traditional embalming process, or by plastination where body fluids are extracted and replaced by polymers which set hard. Also if the deceased left specific instructions, the body can be donated to medical science, or preserved in liquid nitrogen (cryonic preservation). The wishes regarding the disposal of the body left in a will are not legally binding. However, they may be considered in a court of law if the disposal method is disputed.

Final facts about body disposal

You can not detain a body for example against the payment of a debt.

The appointed person may not conspire to prevent the decent and lawful disposal of the body.

You can not dispose of a body in order to prevent an inquest.

The responsible person can not sell a body for the purpose of dissection or experimentation.