In scenarios of catastrophes with damage situations such as big earthquakes, flood waves as well as epidemics and pandemics, the main priority is saving human lives. A topic that does not gain a lot of attention when it comes to planning and performing help operations is the approach to handling the deceased. Dignity and piety do not hold a lot of significance in these kinds of challenging scenarios. Grief work and the needs of the surviving dependants do hardly get attention. Even worse: Instead of ceremonies, disposals take place. The body bags used only find low acceptance due to their visual and haptic effects, which resemble those of an overdimensioned waste bag. The zippers used are in conflict with the Muslim belief. Additionally, the material is not putrescible. Microbes and fungi, which would start the natural decay, are excluded. That way, not only the body is conserved, but possible pathogens are too. Some cultures believe, that because of the lack of degradability of the bag, the soul can not rise to the otherworld. Due to hygienic reasons, body bags were not allowed to be re-opened once the deceased had been laid in in the case of the Ebola epidemic, not even for the relatives to say goodbye. This procedure does not only lead to unnessecary conflicts between helpers and the affected populations and fire up conspiracy theories, it also massively and cross-culturally disrupts the grieving process of the relatives.

For these reasons, a concept for the reverent farewell was created with respect to cultural, social, hygienic and ecological aspects, which considers the entire procedure of burial even under the most unfavourable circumstances in the case of a catastrophe.
Project Partners:
· Cadus e.V.
· Robert Koch Institute
· HTW Berlin (Universitiy of Applied Sciences)

Awards:
Mia Seeger Prize 2020
– Recognition –

Culture & Piety
The deceased protection cover that was developed is a symbiosis of burial cloth and body bag and is the core piece of the concept. It is as suitable for ceremonies as it is for recovery operations. When used with an optional infection protection inlay, it may also be used in epidemiologic scenarios.
For purposes of performing identifications and farewell ceremonies, the head piece can be serperately opened and closed. Burial objects can be placed in the footing area or in a pocket on the outside. It has a pleasant feel und fits close to the body. By reduction to minimal needs and dispensation with e.g. zippers, a culturally sensitive use is possible. If wished for and an option in the circumstances given, an individual design, for en example through paintings or inscriptions, is possible.
The cover is easy to use and can be tailored to the individual stature and body heigth, even to children’s sizes. For easier transport, it is supplied with carrying loops, which also serve as retainers for transport bars.
Photos: Model in 1 to 5
Sustainability
The process which is used worldwide for handling the deceased in cases of catastrophes is also critical when looked at from an ecological point of view: By the use of conventional body bags, soils are polluted and bodies, together with potential pathogens, are excluded from degrading naturally. The human body contains up to 219 different pollutants, which means that a corpse buried in a body bag would have to be classified as hazardous waste. In the production of the deceased protection cover, not only 50% less raw materials are needed, those raw materials are also exclusively of natural origin and allow for an ecofriendly decomposition. To aid the degradation of toxins and the natural processes of decay, additional fungal spores are used: The fungal mycelium helps with the natural degradation of body and cover. By using the process of mycorestoration, different pathogens and toxins from body and soil can be erased. This innovative use of fungal mycelium offers huge chances to increase the sustainability of burials, for scenarios of catastrophes as well as for commercial funerals.
#1 The body is placed on the integrated fungal absorbing mat in the body cover
#2 As part of the ceremony, a scented nutrient solution is sprayed cautiously onto the body
#3 The fungal mycelium starts to grow and supports the natural degradation of body cover, body and pollutants

Identification
For easier identification and traceability in chaotic scenarios, a factory-set serial nummer and a QR-Code are attached to every body cover. A two-piece identification tag, which contains both of the above elements, symbolically supports the farewell by breaking it in two. One piece of the identification tag remains with the corpse, the second part of the identification tag is handed to the surviving dependants.
Employing the QR-Code, you are led to a portal for data collection of the person deceased. The digital acquisition of the characteristics allows for an automatic reconciliation of the missing persons database. A portion of the data, like date of death and place of burial, can also be viewed by relatives.
Infection protection
For normal scenarios of catastrophe, the infection protection by the cover itself is sufficient. For operations with highly infectious bodies, like during an epidemic, a partly transparent infection protection film made from bioplastics can be integrated as an additional component. It can be easily disinfected and offers protection from infections, degrades at the earliest at 40 days after burial and can be tailored to every body shape by rolling it up. It also includes an absorbing mat with fungal spores; carrying handles at top and bottom allow an easy transport. The transparency of the material ensures a hygienic and safe farewell.
The optional infection protection film made of bioplastics can be inlaid into the body cover after outer disinfection for purposes of ceremony and funeral. Performing a personal farewell is made possible through the partly transparent design and the option to open the head piece of the cover.
A detailed theoretical thesis, a documentation of the design process and the results of my analysis belong to this bachelor project (152 pages, 05/2020). In case of questions or interest in the work done, I look forward to receiving a personal message.
 “The dead is the most important day in life.”
(African saying)

Back to Top