Funeral consumers are now provided the option of collecting their deceased loved ones DNA. Of course, some may wonder why anyone would want to collect DNA from a deceased person. The first question that must be answered; exactly what is DNA?
DNA is the instructions to create new life. Think of schematics for an electrical system or blueprints to build a house, each cell in a body contains a full identical DNA compliment and every living thing known today from animals, plants, bacteria and even viruses all use DNA to reproduce and function. Because same DNA is in every cell of a human body it doesn’t matter which cell you get the DNA from each has a full set of instructions. When a cell splits, the exact DNA is copied in the new cell. The egg cells and the sperm cells each have half a compliment of DNA from the mother and father. When they join they create a new life and follow the DNA instructions to build the organism. Hair color, height and all your physical traits are genetically programmed. There is an interaction between environment and DNA which determines how these genes are expressed. You may be genetically programmed to obtain a height of six feet but because of bad nutrition you only grow to five feet. DNA is also passed down with very little variation in families which allows the identification of trends for disease and illness
The significance of DNA research for medical reasons including identification of early stage diseases and using DNA for analysis for cures continues to emerge (see a recent report on BBC News DNA project ‘to make UK world genetic research leader’). For many, a compelling reason for DNA collection is where and who we come from. DNA provides a 100% accurate family lineage securing important legacy for future generations. Genetic genealogy a popular interest in North America and as genetic records accumulate around the globe, preserving familial DNA now ensures any geographic and all-genealogical connections are forever possible.
To circle back to why anyone would want to collect DNA from a deceased person, funeral directors know the finality of the decision. There are three facts that are very important when making funeral arrangements that must be considered:
- Cremation is an irreversible process. Unlike burial where a body may be disinterred after a period of time, cremation is a final disposition of human remains.
- All genetic and medial DNA are destroyed by the cremation process. DNA begins degradation at 800 degrees and the cremation of a human typically is a temperature is over 1800 degrees. There are no traces of DNA in cremated human remains.
- Even after burial of a loved one, disinterment is costly both emotionally and financially. In some jurisdictions, disinterment may require court orders.
When considering these facts, basically a funeral director is offering the “last chance” for a family to collect and bank their deceased loved ones DNA.