How do you dispose of yourself after you have ‘shuffled off this mortal coil’? Ideally you’d leave instructions with those who you have left, and they would be free to follow through with them, so long as your disposal didn’t interfere/cause harm to others. Alas, it seems that even in the 21st Century the enlightened masters that lord it over us stand in the way of our desires even when we are dead. A devout Hindu wishes to be cremated upon a funeral pyre, but having sought out permission first from his local council, who refused on ‘impractical grounds’ he then took his claim to the High Court. They rejected his wishes, agreeing with the council on grounds of impracticality, and that it didn’t infringe on his human rights in either area of religious freedom or his right to privacy. Morton Blackwell’s first rule of the public policy process should have been observed: Never give a bureaucrat the chance to say no!
If Mr Ghai had taken the same approach as Dr William Price*, whilst ensuring that he harmed no one else, he could have perhaps forced the debate. Instead he handed the opportunity to refuse his simple demand to a bureaucrat and an inept legal system. When one looks at the history of cremation it seems that this latest ruling is a step back to the times when the “higher authority" of the land laid claim to your body and could forcibly direct you to behave in a certain way through the projection of guilt via sin. We will now have to see if the Court of Appeal has any sense of religious freedom/privacy issues. Perhaps there is a wealthy individual who could donate the use of part of his private land so that a dying man’s wishes could be granted so that he could dye at peace.
Currently though it seems that it will take us some time before we are at one with each others differing desires and that death itself should continue to be viewed as a taboo subject. It is time that the government realised that we do not belong to them, or owe our existence to them. Perhaps they could leave us to burn in peace.
* Dr Price was a druid/eccentric who cremated his deceased 5 day old child Jesus Christ Price in a pagan ceremony atop a hill. Obviously horrifying the natives of Llantrisant, but not the judge at his subsequent trial who found that cremations were not illegal. Such forward thinking from a judge in 1884.