Embalming is a multi-stage procedure that is used to preserve bodies of the deceased from decomposition. Decomposition begins as soon as death occurs however embalming utilizes formaldehyde based chemicals to slow down the course and preserve bodies for wakes and viewings.
It is a necessary to keep in mind that embalming does not reverse the effects of decomposition or bring back the way a deceased person looked like during their life. It basically slows down the decomposition process and preserves the body at the condition that it arrived in. Moreover, having open casket funerals increases the cost of embalming and the cost of preparing the body, such as dressing it or applying any cosmetics, to the previously expensive funeral services that are being provided.
How is Embalming done?
Embalming has to do with surgically removing all the body fluids that are present from blood within the blood vessels of the deceased to the fluids within their organs. Therefore embalming is divided into two processes. Arterial embalming is the first process in which the blood is removed from the body by pumping the embalming fluid into any of the main arteries; causing the blood to drain out through the sibling vein. An incision is usually made by the clavicle, just below the neck in order to gain access to the blood vessels required for the process. The blood vessels are then grabbed using embalming instruments and set up in a way that allows for pumping the fluids into the body while being able to also extract the blood out from the same incision. The second step of embalming is the cavity embalming. This part involves making a little incision by the bellybutton of the deceased and inserting a surgical instrument known as trocar. Trocars are instruments with three-sided cutting points that are covered in a tube. They are attached to a device that creates a suction force that extracts the fluids and gases that are found in the body. The trocar is then used to pierce all internal organs in the body of the deceased to extract all the fluids and gases that makes the body to physically change after death. After that is finished, the formaldehyde based embalming fluid is pumped back into the organs that were earlier punctured in order to complete the embalming process. The incisions are both stitched closed after these two steps are completed, then the body undergoes final preparations.
Final preparations consist of multiple processes. The first step is shutting the eyes using “eye-caps”. Eye-caps are concave spheres that hold the eyelids closed from the within of the eye. They make sure that the eyes stay shut by holding on to the skin. The mouth of the deceased is then sewn shut with the aid of a 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 to preserve the shape of the mouth of the deceased and give it a more natural look rather than how the person looks after they have passed. Final preparations also involve dressing and applying cosmetics in most cases in order to give the embalmed body a look that is close to what they looked like during life. Families usually 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 may think, embalming is not needed by law except for very specific situations. These specific cases are mainly open casket funeral services, or sometimes if the body is to be transported over a long distance to get services in another country.
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