Preserving the Body by Embalming

Embalming is a method of temporarily preserving the body to:

  • Make it easier to transport the body over a long distance.
  • Give survivors ample time to schedule and hold funeral services.
  • Enable the body to be viewed in an open casket.

In addition to preservation, embalming helps guard against health hazards.

Embalmers are licensed technicians and, in most cases, are also Funeral Directors. To embalm the body, they inject preservative chemicals into the circulatory system. Using a special machine, the blood is removed and replaced with the embalming fluid.

Refrigeration can also preserve the body, but it’s not always available. If it’s necessary to transport unembalmed remains, they may be packed in ice.

Is Embalming Necessary?

Federal law prohibits funeral providers from misrepresenting the legal necessity of embalming. In fact, funeral providers are required to inform consumers that embalming is not required by law, except in certain special cases. And, it is unlawful to represent that embalming is required for:

  • Immediate burial.
  • Direct cremation.
  • A closed casket funeral without a viewing or visitation when refrigeration is available (if state or local law does not require embalming).

The History of Embalming

Embalming dates back thousands of years to ancient Egypt where it was used for mummification. In the 1800’s, European scientists embalmed the bodies they used for anatomical studies. In the United States, embalming gained favor during the Civil War as a way to preserve the remains of the dead soldiers for the long trip home. Some religions are opposed to embalming because they believe the body should not be altered.

See related topics:

Interment Arrangements
Cremation
Preparation of Deceased
DNA Sampling
Autopsy

Go to Funeral Guide — Index of Topics.