Overweight Corpses: The Next Big Problem

Talk about dead weight: The increased number of morbidly obese corpses is complicating the lives of mortuary workers in Australia.

In the latest grim finding regarding the obesity epidemic, a new study in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine compares the weight of autopsied bodies in Adelaide, Australia, in 1986 and 2006. The results read like a particularly dark episode of Six Feet Under.

In 1986, 47 percent of the bodies had a normal body-mass index, while 14.8 were classified as obese and 1.3 percent morbidly obese. In 2006, only 32 percent of cases had a normal BMI, while 27.2 were obese and 4.8 percent morbidly obese.
According to lead author Roger Byard, professor of pathology at the University of Adelaide, this increase in the weight of the recently deceased has led to “significant problems” for mortuaries. 

“Lifting, transport, transfer, storage and autopsy dissection are all difficult,” he writes. “Unless mortuaries are modified to deal with the increasing numbers of morbidly obese individuals, with reinforced and robust equipment including lifting hoists, the autopsy examination of such cases may be compromised, and staff will be confronted with ongoing and increasing risk of injury.”

So the next time you’re reaching for that third doughnut, think again. Your mortician will thank you.