Swimming in Ashes?

Disclaimer: This may be a bit of a buzz-kill for your post-Valentine’s Day glow.


Would you go swimming in the middle of winter?  In an indoor pool?  Heated by a crematorium?

According to a February 8th Reuters article, the Redditch Borough Council in central England recently approved the use of waste heat from a crematorium incinerator to warm its local swimming pool.  Although this “energy efficient practice” is the first of its kind in Great Britain, it is not a European novelty.  Sweden has long used this green form of energy!

Local protesters are calling this proposal “gruesome,” “insulting,” and “sick.”  Although I was also jarred by this plan, I quickly realized that my revulsion stemmed from a deeper source than the goose bumps I got from the word “crematorium.”

The larger issue here is not that an incinerator is being used as a source of energy.  Sure, it’s morbid that the deceased are used for heat generation, but the key distinction is that the bodies are not being burned in order to maintain the pool.  The deceased would be cremated regardless of this proposal.  The plan simply proposes to harness the energy from the cremation process.

Rather, the moral stake is lack of consent.  Does the council have permission from the families of the deceased to use their loved one’s body as fodder for energy generation?  Does the council have permission from the deceased?  (Here, I would presume the answer is no).  If we ask the living for consent in using their bodies for research, why do we neglect to ask the dead if we can use their body for energy (before they die)?  The council should have an “opt-out” program similar to the organ-donation designations on driver’s licenses.  To do any less would be to violate the dignity of deceased.

Although the swimming pool proposal still gives me the heebie-jeebies, the real question is, do the deceased have the same moral standing as us?  I speak for those who cannot speak for themselves when I say a resounding, yes.