New title explores our final destination

book cover image autopsy of barbie dollNorman L. Cantor. After We Die: the Life and Times of the Human Cadaver. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2010.
“What will become of our earthly remains? What happens to our bodies after our cadavers are disposed of? Who controls our physical fate, and what legal and moral constraints apply? Legal scholar Norman Cantor provides a graphic, informative, and entertaining exploration of these questions in After We Die. He chronicles not only a corpse’s physical state but also its legal and moral status, including what rights, if any, the corpse possesses.
In a claim sure to be controversial, Cantor argues that a corpse maintains a ‘quasi-human status’ granting it certain cadaveric rights, such as being treated with respect and dignity and having one’s disposal choices upheld. Cantor also reviews unconventional ways in which individuals can extend their legacies by donating their bodies to the good of medical education, scientific research, or tissue transplantation, emphasizing the importance of leaving instructions directing post-mortem disposal. After We Die outlines the limits that ‘postmortem human dignity’ poses upon disposal options, particularly the use of a cadaver or its parts in educational or artistic displays.
Contemporary illustrations of these complex issues, as Cantor demonstrates, abound. In 2007, the well-publicized death of Anna Nicole Smith highlighted the passions and disputes surrounding the handling of the human body. Similarly, following the 2003 death of baseball great Ted Williams, the family in-fighting and legal proceedings surrounding the corpse’s proposed cryogenic disposal also raised contentious questions about the physical, legal, and ethical issues that emerge when life ceases.
In the tradition of Sherwin Nuland’s How We Die, Cantor carefully and sensitively addresses the post-mortem handling of human remains.”

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