The Truth about Embalming

The Truth about EmbalmingWhen funeral planning, embalming is typically introduced as a way to preserve the dignity and appearance of the deceased in the days leading up to the burial. Through the use of various medical techniques, the body is drained of its natural fluids and replaced with chemicals that provide a more “life-like” appearance for the deceased. Although the reasons for embalming vary, it is most common when the family opts for an open casket ceremony.

Depending on which funeral home you choose, you might feel pressured to choose embalming even if you aren’t having an open casket (or, in some cases, even if all you plan to do is have the deceased’s remains cremated). It’s important to remember that embalming is rarely required by law and involves quite a few invasive procedures that might not fit with the serene, restful pose your loved one assumes afterward.

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Here are a few embalming facts you can turn to when deciding whether or not this procedure is right for you:

  • Embalming is only required when crossing certain state lines, or when transporting a body by common carrier. Under no other circumstances should you feel pressured to have this procedure performed.
  • Embalming doesn’t contribute to public health safety in any way. In fact, some states prohibit it if the deceased died of certain contagious diseases, and embalming professionals must wear respirators and full body coverings.
  • There is no way to prevent decay. Although embalming will slow down the rate of decomposition, there is no way to stop it forever. Any promises or implications made to the contrary are false.
  • If you would like to halt the process of decay (for a funeral that is postponed or delayed), you can also choose to have the body refrigerated. It isn’t as effective as embalming, but is comparable in terms of short-term results. If the funeral home doesn’t offer refrigeration, you should be able to find a hospital or morgue that does.
  • The average embalming costs range around $3,000, once all the preparation and makeup is included. Those who opt for embalming also typically pay for more elaborate viewings, funerals, and caskets.
  • The “natural look” of embalming is anything but. Bodily features are preserved by inserting materials into different portions of the body. Cotton, eye caps, molding wax, wires, sutures, glue, and gauze are common items.

Embalming isn’t always a bad option. In many cases, it brings a measure of comfort to the family, and there can be a great sense of closure that comes from seeing the deceased in a measure of repose.

However, if funeral costs are a concern, it might be best to consider your other options. For most people, embalming is an added expense that can be avoided without impacting the overall funeral planning experience.

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