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A Question about Embalming


My mother died on February 28, 2001. At the viewing, I noticed that their was a string of cotton with blood on it near her breast bone. She was not an organ donor because she died of cancer. I thought maybe it was blood from part of the embalming process, but when I read your article on embalming, it said that it's done by the navel, and she did not have an autopsy. Is there another explanation? Or, was the funeral home or hospital doing something they shouldn't have been doing?

She died at the hospital and my family was there when she died. We saw them take out her IVs and it wasn't blood from that. The only other thing she was on was oxygen and she wouldn't have bled from that. She had a heart transplant five years ago and that left a scar down the front of her chest; would that have somehow come open and caused the bleeding? Thank you for letting me ask. I am just curious.

Tough question. It might have been some opening of the incision from the heart surgery, but that's somewhat unlikely. It's more likely an incision nearer the clavicle—often times the carotid artery is used for injection purposes and the jugular vein for drainage during embalming. I'm guessing the clothing your mother was wearing wasn't too revealing and so this cotton was probably somewhat high on the breastbone; that would play into the carotid artery theory. I hope this helps.--David R. Shirley

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