Williams v. Williams

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In the English case of Williams v. Williams, 20 Ch. D. 659, 659 (1881), the court in England held that "there can be no property in the dead body of a human being."[1] This has been widely followed in American courts, though a cause of action based in tort for mishandling a dead body has been recognized.

In that case, a deceased person's mistress sued his estate in order to pay for cremation of his body, which the mistress obtained pursuant to the deceased's testamentary wishes after he was buried by his surviving widow and children.

The UAGA subsequently altered this common law rule in many states, particularly with respect to organ donations.


  1. Hoppe, Nils (28 February 2013). Bioequity – Property and the Human Body (in English). Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.. ISBN 9781409496816. Retrieved on 28 November 2014. “Ex Ante Provisions Following the expressly property-based ruling in Williams v. Williams, an individual therefore has no legal entitlement to have his wishes complied with after death.” 

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