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What Happens When a Funeral Home Receives a Body


Can you tell me what happens when a funeral home receives a body?

Once a funeral home has been contacted and brought the body to their facility, one of two things generally happens. If the family has requested cremation with no viewing or embalming, the body is then placed in a refrigerated holding area until the proper permits have been issued and the cremation can take place. If the family has authorized embalming to allow for visitation or viewing, then the body is embalmed.

Embalming involves replacing the majority of the blood in the body with embalming chemicals (usually formaldehyde or gluteraldehyde based). These chemicals bind with the proteins in the body to retard decomposition. It is this binding process that makes the person's skin feel stiff or rigid when you touch someone in a casket. (People often confuse this with rigor mortis, which is an entirely different process that occurs in an unembalmed body.)

In preparation for embalming, the body is placed on a special table (similar to an operating table) and thoroughly bathed. Next, the hands are positioned and the eyes and mouth closed (if indeed they were open). The embalmer then mixes the fluids that will be used. This mix will be determined by whether or not the person has dry skin, if they are retaining fluids, if they have a liver condition that has caused jaundice and a variety of other factors. Dye is also added to this fluid, since much of the natural color in our skin and lips come from the color of the blood circulating close to the surface. This fluid is then injected with an electric pump into a major artery in the body (often the carotid) and as it pushes the blood forward, it is released from the accompanying vein (in the care of the carotid artery, the jugular vein). If the individual has poor circulation, several points of injection may be necessary. Once the arterial embalming has been completed, the point of injection is closed and the body bathed again.

After the embalming is completed, the person is dressed, the hair is fixed and any necessary makeup is done before the person is placed in the casket. - Steve Moeller

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