5 Questions: Preparing the Deceased for Burial or Cremation


1. Is embalming required?

Depending on local regulations, funerals that occur soon after death may not require 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.

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. Laws in most states require that the deceased be embalmed or placed in refrigeration within 24 hours of death. Federal law prohibits funeral providers from misrepresenting the legal necessity of embalming.

2. How should the deceased be dressed?

The deceased can be dressed according to their wishes. If no preference was prearranged, apparel is usually chosen by the family. Often a favorite suit or dress is selected, as well as jewelry and eyewear. On the other hand, family members may purchase an entirely new outfit for their loved ones. Religious practices may dictate that a simple garment be used for burial. Of course, articles of clothing and jewelry can be worn for visitation and funeral ceremonies and then removed for burial.

3. Should any personal items be buried with the deceased?

Personal items can be buried with the deceased according to their wishes or those of the family. Some caskets have unique drawers to hold jewelry, medals, awards, or mementos.

4. Why should a DNA sample be taken before interment?

Advances in genetic research and technology make it possible to create a unique genetic profile of each of us from our DNA. Many scientists believe that many, if not all, diseases and disorders are rooted in our genes. The genetic history of a family can be used to assess a predisposition to certain diseases among current family members and future descendants. This valuable information can be used to prevent and treat diseases and disabilities. A DNA profile may also be used to establish parentage, which may help resolve estate issues.

Your Funeral Director can help you make arrangements with a firm specializing in DNA profiling. The best time to take the sample is before interment. And if cremation is performed, the opportunity to sample
the DNA will be lost.

5. Under what circumstances should an autopsy be performed?

An autopsy is a post-mortem examination of the body, both externally and internally, to diagnose disease and injury and determine the cause of death. Autopsies may also include laboratory analysis of tissue, cell samples, and body fluids. Pathologists and forensic pathologists are medical specialists trained to perform autopsies.

An autopsy may be ordered by the coroner or medical examiner to determine the cause or manner of death or to recover potential evidence, such as a bullet or alcohol content in the blood. Families may elect to have an autopsy performed to identify any diseases that may be inherited, thereby posing a potential risk for family members. Also, a family may authorize a hospital autopsy to determine the extent of the known disease and assess the effects of therapies used to treat the condition. This would be beneficial from a medical research standpoint.

One thought on “5 Questions: Preparing the Deceased for Burial or Cremation”

  1. D. Mann

    In some states refrigeration is not required by law. Embalming is not required if a burial will take place within 48 hours from time of death, if it is a direct burial (no viewing of body) or a direct cremation (no viewing of body). Embalming may also be required by some states when transferring the body to another state.
    An autopsy is usually done by the Medical Examiner. If the patient dies of natural causes, but the family wants an autopsy, the family must pay a private physician who specializes in autopsies to preform one. The cost is usually between $2000-$4000. The funeral home should be able to help you locate a physician who will preform a private autopsy or contact one for you. And an autopsy may be done even after embalming has begun.

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