Most of us have thought, at least at one point, about what happens to our bodies after death. Depending on your culture and spiritual background, you may prefer anything from a traditional casket burial to a massive funeral pyre. Funeral practices around the world, however, are subject to death laws. Legal constraints for burial and cremation, and laws regarding the treatment of bodies, often defy logic.
What laws are in place after someone dies? Burial laws vary greatly, as do laws regarding corpses in general. From stringent regulations on non-traditional cremations to the fact an organ donor's wishes can be completely ignored, such laws can be depressing. All the more reason to be prepared for the inevitable and make sure your next of kin are willing and able to oblige your wishes.
During World War I, devastated fiancées of fallen soldiers wanted to wed their slain lovers even after death. Throughout the war, this request was usually – albeit, somewhat unofficially – granted. The practice was questionably legal in France until 1950, when it was officially made law. To marry a dead person, you must get permission from the president and justice minister and provide evidence that the deceased intended to marry you.
If a ceremony is held, the living partner usually stands next to a photo of their departed lover. The words “till death to us part” are omitted from wedding vows. Instead of ending with, “I do,” the ceremony instead ends with, “I did.” Similar ceremonies have also taken place in Thailand and South Korea.
In the UK, there are several laws – some dating as far back as the 13th century – that seem absurd by modern standards. One such law states it’s illegal to die in parliament, and those who look sickly should be carried out. The reason for this law?
Much like a 1279 law that bans wearing armor in parliament, this law is designed to keep parliament a peaceful place. As it’s thought of as a place of royalty, death and violence are forbidden.
Due to the intense social stigma surrounding the practice, one would assume necrophilia is illegal throughout the United States. However, four states still have no official laws against necrophilia.
Necrophilia is technically legal in Louisiana, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Vermont.
Home burial is traditionally thought of as an archaic practice, but you would be surprised to know the majority of US states have no laws specifically prohibiting it. Most states do require you check zoning laws first. Some states – such as Michigan and Illinois – also require you have a licensed funeral director perform certain parts of the funeral. However, as long as you follow these regulations, you could conceivably burry a loved one in your backyard.
Exceptions include Arkansas, California, Indiana, Louisiana, and Washington; these states require bodies be buried in an established cemetery.