Leaflets and forms
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Photos showing the arrival of 300 boxes of the Fifth Edition of The Natural Death Handbook at the charity's headquarters in May 2012. Additional images were taken at 'Death Fest' at the Southbank Centre 27-29th January 2012, where we spoke to hundreds of people and with their help created a bejewelled pink coffin.
Debates & Issues
Another political development we have been following with interest is the debate in the public and legal arena around assisted suicide. In 2008, Debbie Purdy, who suffers from the degenerative type of MS wanted to know if her husband would be prosecuted if he accompanied her to Switzerland to end her life. This started a process which has ended with the Director of Public Prosecutions all but decriminalising assisted suicide in this country.
Like society itself, we are finding it difficult to come to a consensus as a board. One thing we are all agreed on is that condemnation on purely religious grounds is no longer acceptable. We instinctively favour choice and are uncomfortable with state interference beyond protection of the vulnerable and ensuring no crime goes undetected. We have invited the British organisation Dignity in Dying to contribute an essay to our next edition of The Natural Death Handbook, and look forward to hearing their arguments.
Colleagues in America
We are hoping to strengthen our ties with colleagues in America and the fledgling natural burial movement there. We will have contributions in the new edition of our Handbook from at least two American organisations. One is Cynthia Beal, an activist with roots in the organic cooperative movement who has turned her formidable attention to natural burial. Cynthia runs two organisations there, one a company selling products related to natural burial such as eco friendly coffins and another not for profit organisation set up to further the movement. She will be giving us an overview of things in the States, including the battle currently being fought between those advocating ʻhome funerals,ʼ and those with opposing legislative interests. See Cynthia's Be A Tree website here
Some states require the involvement of a licensed mortician, unlike this country where a funeral director is not required by law at any point. This is a fundamental point of conflict, and goes straight to the heart of some things we take for granted here; the basic right to deal with our dead ourselves, without a doctor, priest or funeral director. We hope to be encouraging, supporting and advising all of those seeking to win this basic social right.
Another group who are contributing an essay are MAPS, an acronym that stands for Multi-disciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies. MAPS are funding research into the use of currently controlled substances for therapeutic use. They will be talking about the results shown in hospices using psilocybin and MDMA to treat end of life anxiety and to enhance communication between families. Before MDMA became a street drug and was christened Ecstacy it was used by therapists who called it Empathy, the most descriptive word for its effects. There is hope both here and in the States that in the future it could become as much a part of the hospice medicine bag as analgesics or nausea suppresents.
Many of these ideas are controversial. We are not blindly supporting these issues, but we are hoping to further the debate. After all, todayʼs heresy is tomorrowʼs orthodoxy.
The work of the Natural Death Centre is about the challenge of transition in all itʼs forms and is not meant to be blandly comforting. We make no apology for looking away from the mainstream for answers.
If there is something political in the world of death that you feel we have missed and should turn our attentions to, please contact us
The New Natural Death Handbook fifth edition is out now, this book is a must read for everyone. Completely revised and expanded into a boxed set of three books... Read more
Credit to Will Whipple (photographer)
Are you considering a natural funeral?
CTVC - an award winning, non-profit television production company - are researching for a documentary about DIY funerals for Channel 4. We specialise in producing responsible films about sensitive subjects and hope to raise awareness about the alternative options to high costs funerals... read more
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