To be or not to be embalmed, it’s your choice?

by | May 5, 2020

The Egyptians practiced mummification, many centuries ago; which was an early form of embalming. Complex rites and rituals were carried out to ensure the body was properly preserved. The mummification process had enormous spiritual significance.

During the American Civil War hundreds of thousands of soldiers died far from home and their grieving families. Being embalmed meant that bodies could be safely transported and returned to their loved ones.

Nelson’s body was returned from the battle of Trafalgar preserved in a keg of brandy.

The embalming process has changed considerably over the years. Today, (Embalming is sometimes referred to as (hygienic or sanitary treatment) and is an extremely intrusive procedure. The main reason for embalming is to make a dead person look more life-like and delay the process of decay. The procedure is intrusive and involves the life’s blood being drained from the body and replaced with toxic preservatives. Embalming fluids contaminate the earth and the air we breathe.

Nowadays with modern refrigeration available embalming is seldom a necessity except in exceptional cases; if a body is kept out of refrigeration for any length of time, laid in state for public viewing with an open coffin or if there is a long wait until the funeral. If a body is to be sent abroad or brought home it must be embalmed. That is the law.

Jessica Mitford in her book ‘The American Way of Death refers to the embalming process as peoples’ loved ones being: ‘sprayed, sliced, trussed, waxed, painted, rouged, and neatly dressed.’ Preserving the body of a person has different social, religious and emotional significance to different cultures.

The following information is not for the faint hearted:

  • The embalmer makes one incision in the body from which to drain the blood and another to pump in the embalming fluid
  • As the pump pushes fluid into the body, so it pushes the blood out.
  • Embalming fluid is a cocktail of formaldehyde, phenol, borax, glycerin, potassium nitrate, acetate dye and water.
  • As similar process takes place where the chest and stomach are concerned
  • The eye lids are shut using eye caps
  • The mouth is closed using a long curved needle by taking a long stitch from inside the mouth, through the bottom lip, beneath the teeth, up under the top lip, through the septum and back down into the mouth. A simple knot then pulls the jaw shut.
  • The decease’s hair is washed and their appearance tidied in readiness for the funeral.

The food many of us eat now-a-days contains many preservatives. Maybe embalming isn’t so necessary?