While an uncomfortable topic for many, there are any number of misconceptions about embalming that can influence individuals to feel a certain way about the practice. Embalming is not required by law, and generally is not an essential practice, although there are times when it is highly recommended. Why does the practice of embalming our loved ones carry so much concern?
Definition of Embalming
Embalming is the act of replacing bodily fluids with a preservative solution, such as formaldehyde, and disinfecting the body in preparation for viewing or a burial. This process can also include other preparations for visitation such as setting the features of the deceased in a fashion that is appealing visually and may offer a more life-like appearance that can help families during an emotional time.
Embalming Around the World
While embalming is used for the majority of the deceased in the U.S. and in Canada, the practice is not widely accepted on the global front. Specifically, Hindus, Buddhists and those of the Orthodox Jewish faith forbid embalming as they feel it is a desecration of the body. While there are no states that require embalming if the body stays within the state lines, crossing over state lines is a different story. Many states require that a body undergo embalming before it can cross state lines or when there is going to be a delay before the body can be interred or cremated.
Alternatives to Embalming
There is some concern that embalming is a dangerous chemical process–so much so that OSHA requires mortuary staff to wear full protective gear and a respirator before they are able to perform the procedure. Alternatives such as refrigeration of the remains may provide an adequate method of preservation depending on the heat and humidity of the climate. It’s true that embalming does not preserve the body forever; instead, this practice merely prolongs the period of time before the inevitable decomposition occurs.
Determining whether or not to have your loved one embalmed is ultimately a personal decision. However, understanding the reasons behind the practice as well as some of the alternatives can help you make an informed decision. If you have additional questions about embalming, contact our caring and confidential staff at Mountain View Funeral Home and Cemetery.