Comments on the Potter's Field: Burial Policy in New York City
affiliation not provided to SSRN
January 1, 2012
For some time now, the cost and utility of a potter’s field allowed municipal mass graves to exist, to the detriment of the moral stakes involved. As the pragmatic becomes less so, the moral consequences of mass internments in a potter’s field should become more persuasive on those that decide how municipal burials are conducted, preferably before Soylent Green is too close to reality.
The current state of affairs, consisting of an economic and a moral crunch, necessitates a clarification and transition away from current methods. In a debate between the lesser of two evils, cremations will prevail. It is possible to accept that an appropriate response to the three ‘criticisms:’ 1) availability of information regarding the operations of and alternatives to Hart Island; 2) access to burial records; and 3) inaccessibility of the island grounds to the public, will alter the character of the city cemetery sufficiently such that it is not a ‘potter’s field’ anymore. But, failing such, other substantial adjustments are needed, if not an entire overhaul of the city burial itself to include the alternative, which is, in all likelihood, cremation.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 32
Keywords: Hart Island, Potter's Field, cemetery, burial, grave, cremate
JEL Classification: K39working papers series
Date posted: November 4, 2012
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