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Can you get your body vibrated into particles when you die? Maybe someday in Kansas

Jonathan Shorman, The Kansas City Star on

Published in News & Features

TOPEKA, Kan. -- When you die, do you want to be buried? Cremated?

How about being cryogenically frozen and then vibrated into tiny pieces? If you want to spend the hereafter in Kansas, you may eventually get the chance if legal and regulatory issues are resolved.

A new option called promession, the creation of a Swedish biologist, holds the potential to make burial more environmentally friendly, its proponents say. A body effectively reduced to small particles and buried would turn to soil in a matter of months.

While promession has yet to be tried on human remains -- only pigs have so far had the privilege -- the company pursuing the idea regards Kansas as fertile ground for the new method. So much so that the firm, Promessa, has one of its handful of U.S. representatives based in Overland Park. And a state lawmaker may introduce a bill in 2020 to clear the way.

In promession, the body is frozen using liquid nitrogen, then vibrated into particles. Water is removed from the particles, which are then freeze-dried. The remains are buried in a degradable coffin.

But in a legal opinion released just before Thanksgiving, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt found that promession doesn't meet the definition of cremation under Kansas law and regulation.

 

In cremation, the body is reduced to bone fragments and flesh is typically burned up by fire. In promession, both flesh and bone are reduced to particles. That difference is why the process does not legally count as cremation, according to Schmidt.

The decision was a surprise to Promessa representative Rachel Caldwell.

"We thought this would be no hang-ups whatsoever," Caldwell said.

Interest has been growing in so-called green burials that minimize the environmental impact. A 2017 survey of more than 1,000 American adults 40 and older by the National Funeral Directors Association found 54% were interested in "green memorialization options" that could include biodegradable caskets and formaldehyde-free embalming.

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