The funeral industry is slow to make changes in its operations and customs. Consumer’s views about death and funerals are challenging funeral directors to make adjustments to their demands. It’s rare now not to find a funeral home without a website; something considered “out of the box” 15 years ago. With the popularity of cremation, many funeral homes have been forced to change their offerings to funeral consumers. Some cremation funeral services are indistinguishable from burial funeral services; with the body present complete with all of the other traditions such as a wake, visitation, services, use of hearse, etc.
However, there is one underlying and very important fact that has not been regularly disclosed to funeral consumers by funeral providers; the cremation process obliterates all medical and genetic DNA, and the process is irreversible. That’s right. Once a body is cremated, there is no traceable medical or genetic DNA that can be harvested from cremated remains.
Why would someone want their deceased loved ones DNA? If you are not aware, Angelina Jolie recently had a double mastectomy because she found through DNA testing that she possessed a mutation in her BRCA1 gene. This discovery indicated that she had a 87% chance of developing breast cancer. Angelina found the DNA testing to be important to her health and future.
I also have a personal reason for the collection of DNA. My wife’s father and Jim “Catfish” Hunter are brothers. If you don’t know the name “Catfish Hunter,” he was a Hall of Fame Baseball Player, Cy Young award winner pitching a perfect game as well as a pitcher for both the Oakland A’s and New York Yankees during some of their World Series wins. “Jimmy” died of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) or “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” in September of 1999. Unfortunately, my wife’s first cousin and Jimmy’s nephew, Gary Hunter died in April 2006 of ALS as well. I have two sons Hunter, 22 and Jackson, 15…DNA of our deceased relatives Jimmy and Gary Hunter would be important for my son’s future.
For some people genealogy is important and becoming more popular for search of family history. So the collection of DNA of a deceased family member has several practical applications that surviving family members may want to consider.
Wikipedia explains “DNA Genetic testing, also known as DNA testing, allows the genetic diagnosis of vulnerabilities to inherited diseases, and can also be used to determine a child’s parentage (genetic mother and father) or in general a person’s ancestry. In addition to studying chromosomes to the level of individual genes, genetic testing in a broader sense includes biochemical tests for the possible presence of genetic diseases, or mutant forms of genes associated with increased risk of developing genetic disorders. Genetic testing identifies changes in chromosomes, genes, or proteins. Most of the time, testing is used to find changes that are associated with inherited disorders. The results of a genetic test can confirm or rule out a suspected genetic condition or help determine a person’s chance of developing or passing on a genetic disorder. Several hundred genetic tests are currently in use, and more are being developed.”
As science continues to progress our eyes are continually opened through information. In the funeral industry, we know the fact that upon conclusion of the cremation of a person, all physical genetic and medical DNA are obliterated. Funeral service professionals have an obligation to provide this information to a family so that they may make educated funeral decisions.
Funeral consumers should conduct research prior to making funeral arrangements and ask their funeral director what happens to their loved one’s DNA after cremation. The cremation process is irreversible and so is the decision not to collect the DNA of their loved one.