Death To Dust: Second Edition Digs Deeper

Jean Spinelli
April 5, 2001


Want to know more about organ, tissue and whole-body donation? Need to know who owns a body after death? Or what a body does to the environment after it's been buried? Interested in cases of premature burial? Or maybe you're not ready for the "Big Sleep" and want information about cryonic preservation?

These questions and many more are answered in the second edition of "Death to Dust: What Happens to Dead Bodies?" The 821-page volume was written by Dr. Kenneth V. Iserson, director of the University of Arizona Bioethics Program and a professor of surgery at the University of Arizona A College of Medicine. The first edition sold more than 50,000 copies.

The second edition includes a new section about after-death photography, plus updated facts, figures and information about organ and tissue donation; prices and statistics for the funeral industry; and new examples in each chapter. Iserson draws from technical and medical journals, newspaper articles and well-known works of literature among the more than 3,000 sources for "Death to Dust."

The book explores the one aspect of life that we all have in common -- death. "The hard facts in 'Death to Dust' safely open doors to a complicated subject that frequently makes people uneasy," Iserson says. "This book sheds light into the dark corners of our society and proves, once again, truth is stranger than fiction.

"I wrote the book to show people that the body can be disturbed in many ways after death and that donating one's organs and tissues is the most respectful and least mutilating of all possibilities," Iserson says.

First published in 1994, the book received a favorable review in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "Perhaps because of our natural aversion to thinking about our own mortality (this) well-documented treatise on what happens to the human body after death may contain substantially more information (than) we ever wanted to know," the JAMA reviewer wrote.

"Death to Dust" was named one of the outstanding reference books by The New York Public Library in 1995, which selects 25 to 30 titles each year that it considers the most valuable additions to its branch collections.



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