Disaster Body Handling

Blanshan, Sue A.
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Disaster Research Center
An analysis of body handling following death is essentially an excusion into a work situation and its activities, actors, and settings. That is, there is a social structure implicit, if not explicit, in the body handling process. It is this social structure which will be the focus of this paper. Given the taboo nature of death in the American culture, (Vernon, 1970) the general public and even various professionals are typically "protected" from the post-death activities which are carried out by "professional body handlers," i.e., morgue attendents coroners, funeral home personnel, and funeral directors. However, in a disaster situation involving mass casulties it may become necessary to include other actors, i.e., volunteers, in the body handling process. In addition, the activities of the task structure whith respect to the bodies are consideably altered in the aftermath of a disaster. The task structure is greatly elaborated and the division of labor becomes much more complex than it would be in a normal death situation.
Disaster , Body handling , Mass casualties , social structure