Voiceover of Dr. John Troyer: The question has come up, how do human rights function for the dead? The legal rights of the living do not automatically transfer over to the dead because a dead body is not a person, but it is still human. It is quite possible to understand the dead as retaining some level of human-ness that does, indeed, still have a right.

So when we die, we lose our legal rights as persons, which is a legal construct, but we are still human because we are biologically human. Arguments have been made that there is a dignity that is extended to both the living and the dead, so that legally, even though you may cease to be a person, you still have a right to a dignified burial or final disposition.

A dead person doesn't have a right to a trial, in the subject sense, because it would be impossible for the opposing counsel to question you if you're dead, it becomes a question of, for example, how next of kin have been affected by what was done to your dead body or what happened to you in terms of death. But it's never the dead person who's making the case. After you're dead, there is this notion of respecting your wishes. There are cases where individuals have been cremated when they wanted to be buried. And so there have been lawsuits filed that say that the dead's wishes weren't followed.

But if what people are wondering is well, geez, how do I make sure my wishes are followed? Get them written down, in writing. And legally agreed. The real question, I think, is, you know, do you have a right to be dead online? I think the answer really kind of is no. So far that once you die, there's just no way to erase everything that is about you online. If you give your family or next of kin, your password, by and large, almost entirely it will always be a violation of the terms and conditions for that company.

And that to let anybody else use it would be a violation of you saying you are who you say you are. It's also why when families go to the companies and ask for the password, the company will say no, we can't give it to you. Because our agreement is with that user, that user is now dead, as such, that's it. This would be one thing I would ask everyone to think about is making sure you've made your wishes clear for how you want to die. The more you can get that documented and written down the better. But at a minimum, you need to talk about it.

Do dead people have human rights?

Published on 29 Nov 2019

How do human rights function for the dead? How do you make sure your wishes are followed in death? Do human rights have an expiry date?

Dr. John Troyer, of the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath, explains all.

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