Prosthetic devices are a common occurrence today; with the constant progression of medical science, people can live longer, better quality lives due to the use of prosthetics. When considering end-of-life arrangements, those with prosthetics need to consider the cremation of prosthetics, too. What happens to these prosthetics when a person is no longer living?
Cremation of Burial
The answer depends on what happens to the body after death – cremation or burial. If a body is buried, then the prosthetic device is generally buried with the body, mostly because there is no reason that it shouldn’t be. Implanted prosthetic devices such as pacemakers, saline or silicone implants, or replacement joints pose no risk to the environment and often cannot be reused, so they go where the body goes.
In the event of cremation, the disposal of prosthetics varies. For example, silicone and saline implants will burn with the body, and joint replacements made of metal will remain after the cremation, then they can be recycled or disposed of. Other devices, however, such as pacemakers or internal cardiac defibrillators, have batteries that can risk an explosion under the heat of cremation, and are, therefore, removed before the process. Under many circumstances, a pacemaker is not removed before cremation, due to neglect, damage, and the ability to recycle pacemakers across the world.
If removed prior to burial or cremation, prosthetics can be recycled or in some cases reused; this is the case for replacement joints that are not destroyed during cremation, or detachable prosthetic limbs. In the United States, prosthetic devices cannot be reused, but this is not the case in other developing countries where people do not have access to advanced medical care or the money for prosthetic devices; it’s here were recycling implants makes a difference.
Titanium and Other Alloys
In the case of titanium or alloy prosthetics, there are a few companies which collect these remains from crematories and recycle them back into the medical world where they are often used in aeronautics or to create new prosthetics. Some cremation prosthetic supply companies will even send out and pick up boxes once they are full of recyclable materials.
What Happens to the Recycled Prosthetics
Concerning internal cardiac defibrillators, they are often sent to developing countries including nations in Africa where they are used in new patients. Removable prosthetic limbs can be sent to people in other countries who are in need, as well. For people who have been given a second chance at a high quality of life thanks to prosthetics, paying that forward to those who cannot afford the same luxuries can be very rewarding. Much like donating an organ, donation of prosthetic devices gives the gift of life.