English 102

Embalming is defined as the preservation of a body from decay, originally with spices and more recently through arterial injection of embalming fluid. Historically the process is identified with the Egyptians, and the mummification of bodies. In Fact, this complicated and extreme method was abandoned, although in recent centuries, ways of preserving bodies has received considerable attention. Varying levels of success were achieved but probably due to expense, very few people utilized them.

In the past thirty years, the commercial promotion of embalming has greatly increased; there has also been an increase in he use of unqualified embalmers over this period. Embalming is a particularly evident amongst large commercial funeral directors in urban locations. Conversely, the process is less common in rural areas, where small funeral directing businesses predominate. This is, in part, due to them appear to oppose the process. The Current use of the word “embalming” is misleading. The process in generally referred to as cosmetic embalming. It is used to improve the visual appearance of the body, and to prevent deterioration in the period leading up to the funeral. It has no long-term preservative value and cannot be compared with the Egyptian concept of preserving bodies. The decision as to the merits of embalming must lie with the individual although a number of issues should be considered.

The embalming process involves removing the body fluids and replacing them with a solution of formaldehyde, often containing a pink dye. The body fluids are treated and disposed of via the public sewer. The Embalming fluid normally consists of a 2 percent solution of formaldehyde, an irritant, volatile acid. Approximately one pint of embalming fluid per stone weight of the body, plus one point, is used. Consequently, one to two gallons of embalming fluid can be used and the effect of this on the soil, soil organisms and air quality following burial or cremation needs further independent research. Our ignorance of the consequences of using this chemical is a cause for concern. In particular, funeral directors and embalmers who carry no responsibility for its impact on the cemetery, crematorium or community use the chemical.

It is difficult to find support for routine embalming in the medical profession. There is no evidence that a body poses a threat to the living, except where death was due to a notifiable disease. No evidence exists of funeral direction, cemetery or crematorium staff obtaining an infection from an unembalmed body. Embalmers suggest that the process thoroughly disinfects the body and removes any risk, however slight, to any person who man come into contact with the body. Conversely, it would be logical to assume that if a real health risk existed, embalming would be mandatory. In fact, when a person dies of a notifiable disease, embalming is not allowed.

You may need to consider carefully whether you will benefit from viewing the body at the funeral directors premises. If you do not intend to view the body then there appears no valid reason to choose embalming You may also have viewed the body immediately after death and have no wish to repeat this at the funeral directors premises. You should appreciate that if you wish to view the body, you will be required to pay a fee for using the funeral directors chapel of rest. Embalming may also be recommended as a pre-requisite to “viewing”, the implication being that an unembalmed body may cause distress. You may also that you are expected to view the body and that his a normal occurrence.

You should reasonable expect to be informed about the embalming process and the advantages it offers. It should only be undertaken where an effective result is judged to be achievable. Unfortunately, this does not always occur. This is because many people accept the process as “cosmetic treatment” and do not recognize it as embalming. Also, the process may be routinely carried out as an inclusive part of the funeral “package”, without express permission. This decision is important, as the process will involve an additional cost on the funeral account. In fact, the BIE have issued a code of Ethics with clearly supports the need to make a specific decision about embalming. This States: “The Client’s informed consent, preferable in writing, must be