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Basic Information

In context (specifically as a method for disposal of human corpses) dissolution involves the dissolving of the corpse in some substance corrosive enough to ensure its complete destruction. Those with experience in such matters suggest that caustic bases are better at breaking down soft tissue than acids, but that they struggle to destroy bone. Both substances struggle to dissolve hair. Biological digestion of a corpse (for example by a bacterial culture) might also be viable but has not been much looked into and would require unusually voracious microbes to occur over a useful time period.

Once the corpse has been dissolved, the resulting solution is then disposed of in a convenient manner - the most obvious of which would be to pour it into a sewer or large body of water such as the sea. For best results the solution should be neutralised first to reduce the environmental disruption which would otherwise draw attention to the discharge (this is also why a large volume of water is required if releasing to surface water - the solution, even when neutralised, is nutrient rich and will cause eutrophication. This is less of an issue in sewers.). Unless an impractical excess of corrosive is used, the resulting solution is also likely to be murky and discoloured and liable to visual detection. Disposal into commercial aqueous waste, soakaway drains or an appropriate waste digestion system may also be appropriate. Naturally any biological culture used for digestion must be thoroughly sterilised before discharge to avoid a significant environmental breach that would almost certainly attract adverse attention.

Currently this method is mostly used by those wishing to dispose of corpses without proper oversight (for example, murderers trying to dispose of a victim), but has attracted some interest amongst environmentalists and other "new age" types as an alternative to cremation and has occasionally been licenced, mostly in Scandinavia.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Most obvious use is for PCs trying to dispose of an enemy, or for PCs to find a bath and a load of acid, with or without partially dissolved corpse, in a villain's lair.
  • Of course, if you happen to be buying a lot of acid for some perfectly legitimate reason, you may well be suspected of this (the same goes, to a lesser extent, for someone buying a lot of caustic base).
  • A sci-fi or fantasy culture could have this as a normal funerary practice (assuming a practicable source of solvents).
    • A normal funerary practice might rely on biological digestion - perhaps some acidic swamp or such where a culture of particularly voracious microrganisms, long used to consuming human flesh and bone, reduce the deceased to their constituent elements within a relatively short time.
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