What is Embalming?
Embalming is a multi-step procedure that is used to preserve bodies of the deceased from decomposition. Decomposition starts as soon as death occurs however embalming utilizes formaldehyde based chemicals to slow down the process and preserve bodies for wakes and viewings.
It is a good thing to keep in mind that embalming does not reverse the effects of decomposition or restore the way a deceased person looked like during their life. It simply slows down the decomposition process and preserves the body at the state that it arrived in. Moreover, having open casket funerals adds the cost of embalming and the cost of preparing the body, such as dressing it or applying any cosmetics, to the already expensive funeral services that are being provided.
How is Embalming done?
Embalming involves surgically removing all the body fluids that are present from blood inside the blood vessels of the deceased to the fluids inside their organs. Therefore embalming is broken down into two steps. Arterial embalming is the first step in which the blood is removed from the body by pumping the embalming fluid into one of the main arteries; causing the blood to drain out from the sibling vein. An incision is typically made by the clavicle, just under the neck in order to gain access to the blood vessels required for the process. The blood vessels are then grabbed using embalming tools and set up in a way that allows for pumping the fluids into the body while being able to extract the blood out from the same incision. The second part of embalming is the cavity embalming. This step involves making a small incision by the bellybutton of the deceased and inserting a surgical instrument called a trocar. Trocars are instruments with three-sided cutting points that are enclosed in a tube. They are connected to a device that creates a suction force that extracts the fluids and gases that are in the body. The trocar is then used to puncture all internal organs in the body of the deceased to extract all the fluids and gases that cause the body to physically change after death. After that is complete, the formaldehyde based embalming fluid is pumped back into the organs that were previously punctured in order to complete the embalming process. The incisions are both sewed closed after these two steps are completed, then the body undergoes final preparations.
Final preparations consist of multiple steps. The first step is closing the eyes using “eye-caps”. Eye-caps are concave spheres that hold the eyelids closed from the inside of the eye. They ensure that the eyes stay shut by holding on to the skin. The mouth of the deceased is then sewn shut using string that is threaded through the lower jaw then above the upper teeth and into the inside of the nose. Mouth formers are then used in order to preserve the shape of the mouth of the deceased and give it a more natural look as opposed to how the person looks after they have passed. Final preparations also involve dressing and applying cosmetics in many cases in order to give the embalmed body a look that is similar to what they looked like during life. Families often provide pictures to funeral homes or embalmers in order for them to use as a point of reference during the embalming process.
Laws Around Embalming
Contrary to what a lot of people might think, embalming is not required by law except for very specific cases. These specific cases are mostly open casket funeral services, or sometimes if the body is to be transported over a long distance to receive services in another country.