The Duty to Die Cheaply – Peter Goldsworthy

02/04/2011 at 12:03 PM (Australian Literature, Books, Short Stories) (, , , , , )

What do you think the worst case scenario would be on a flight that faced no crash disaster? Airline food has its negative points when flying economy but significant steps are being taken by at least some airline carriers to address this deficiency. As the admin of this blog explains in their article, our perceptions of the saltiness and sweetness of food are affected on a flight by white noise. Identification of a suspicious object that might be harmless also may give some passengers cause for alarm. In Peter Goldsworthy’s short story given an attention-grabbing title, The Duty to Die Cheaply, his protagonist faces a dilemma which I hope to never encounter on a long plane journey; imagine enduring sitting with a corpse!

Written from the perspective of an irritated doctor whose field has little to do with patient examination,  he recites the trials and tribulations imposed on him by the deceased passenger. The tone of the narrator clearly expresses he feels injured at the indignity forced upon him due to his occupation. While unwillingly accommodating the desires of the airline’s purser, he takes it on to be as irksome as he can for the duration of the flight which makes for some amusing reading.

Photo of Plane in Flight

Curious after my first introduction to this novel situation, I did some research on what measures are enforced if this were to actually happen and if this had ever occurred. My search unearthed the following information:

  • British Airways reported there were 10 deaths each year during flights from a total of 36 million passengers.
  • Singapore Airlines has introduced ‘corpse cupboards’. If there is no row of empty seats for use, the locker is used. There is also the possibility that any spare vacant restroom might be used.
  • If it is a short domestic flight, planes may divert for a while.  Technically by law, passengers who have passed on cannot be declared dead in the sky and is regarded as indisposed until the plane lands on the ground.

I know this is rather morbid subject matter but if you are fascinated , here are some interesting stories about corpses on planes:


  1. carldagostino said,

    Since they are so close to heaven up there why don’t they pitch the dead follow out the door and save everyone all the trouble and expense of an earthly burial? And the Lord will catch him right quick up in the sky anyway!


  2. Rose sexy said,

    It’s not high blood pressure, would be dangerous, ha .. ha ..! Hi hi, I’m from Indonesia, Bali
    stop by to where I was, yes, who knows you want to know about the health of the body, I again discussed the article about the disease in our bodies.
    thank you!


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