One of the important funeral planning questions everyone must consider when choosing burial is whether or not to have the deceased embalmed. There are strong camps both in favor of and against embalming, and it’s become the kind of issue that divides families who are already struggling to deal with a huge loss.
While no one can decide for you whether or not embalming is the right choice, here are a few pros and cons of this option.
Benefits of Embalming
The primary benefit of embalming is the gift of time. When a body is preserved in this way, you have more time to plan a funeral, get the family together, and make important decisions related to the death of a loved one. Although embalming does not stop decomposition, it does slow it down so that you have up to two weeks (or in some cases, three) to make your plans.
If you are choosing an open casket, embalming is necessary not only for aesthetics, but for health reasons. The time-honored tradition of body viewing or holding a wake is one that many people aren’t willing to let go of, and embalming makes it possible.
Body transport (across state lines) comes with its own list of health hazards, and most states require that the body is embalmed in order to be moved.
Drawbacks of Embalming
Although the process has come a long way in recent years, the chemical makeup of embalming fluid does pose a health risk to funeral home workers (these individuals have been found to have an increased risk of some cancers). Although the decision to work with embalming fluid is entirely their own, you can help reduce their contact by skipping this step.
The same chemicals that pose a health risk to humans also pose a risk to the earth. Although embalming fluid is biodegradable, there is still a large amount of chemicals being put into the soil (and generated during the manufacturing stage).
Embalming adds a funeral cost that many people deem unnecessary. Costing anywhere from $300 to $1,000, choosing to skip this step could mean that you have more money to spend at the memorial service—or it could mean you can avoid too big of a strain on your funeral budget.
To Embalm or Not to Embalm?
In many cases, the funeral home will recommend embalming, and they may even try to push the service. Legally, you are not required to embalm the body unless, as noted above, you are transporting the body over state lines.
Take some time to decide if this step is right for you and your family. If you have any questions about the legal requirements related to embalming, be sure and visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule.