The Toxins in Your Body When You Die

Picture of Jae Rhim Lee

Jae Rhim Lee

What is the best way to dispose of your dead body?

For a long time I thought that the most practical, cost effective, and environmentally sensitive way of someday dealing with my deceased body was cremation. Then I heard Jane Brody, NY Times health correspondent, say that she is planning is donate her body to a School of Medicine.  Since then I have talked to several physicians who confirmed the importance of a cadaver as a milestone in their training and how awesome the gift of a body is.

If your body is accepted by a school, it is cremated after they use the body. They will then either bury the ” cremains”  or send them home to your loved ones- whichever you have requested. It costs your family nothing.  Given that as a kid I wanted to become a doctor and there are many stories about how cadavers were instrumental in both art and medicine, I was inspired by this option and decided it was the best choice for me. I think it probably is still.

BUT- the other day I discovered the “mushroom lady,” Jae Rhim Lee, whose TED talk is provocative. Lee, a 2011 TED Global Fellow, studied at MIT and Wellesley College, and her work has been exhibited in the U.S. and Europe. She is working on the problem that our bodies are full of toxins, that traditional undertaking puts even more toxins into the corpse, and that in the decomposition process these toxins are added to the ecosystem.

Her solution? To develop mushrooms that will aid the decomposition of the body and process the toxins to neutralize them. She has a weird suit, that looks like “Ninja pajamas” with crocheted, white lines in patterns in which the mushroom spores would be contained. This is the “death suit” that she is prototyping.  It is definitely Out There and offers a very different approach to death from the current funeral home scenario. It may not appeal to you at all but it’s an idea.

Here is the Ted Talk.

What do you think?



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