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By strict definition, embalming is the disinfection, preservation and restoration of a dead human body to a life-like appearance. This is accomplished by the removal of body fluids and replacing the fluids with a disinfecting and preservative fluid. The body is subject to quick decomposition unless properly cared for immediately. Only those who have been in close proximity to an un-embalmed body when death occurred some hours previous, know what the odor and appearance can be. An untreated, dead human body starts to decompose almost immediately after death. Embalming retards this process. It also disinfects and sanitizes the body, making it possible to have the body available for viewing and so that the body may be present at the funeral ceremony. In addition, with embalming, the body is restored to a life-like appearance, making a much better memory for the family than prior to death.
Embalming is not required by law except under certain circumstances. Laws and regulations concerning embalming vary from state to state. In Connecticut, embalming is only required by state law when death occurs from certain communicable diseases. Also, when shipment of a body for out of state disposition is to occur by common carrier (bus, train, plane) the body must be embalmed.
Consideration must be given to those who will be exposed to a body and its decomposition prior to final disposition. The staff at our funeral home, as well as family and friends attending calling hours and services. are all at risk, especially when the time from death to final disposition is to be a number of days. When refrigeration is not available, and the body is to be present for family or public viewing, services, or just held until disposition can be completed, it is generally required at our funeral home that the body be embalmed.
When death occurs in Connecticut, the state requires that forty-eight hours lapse before cremation may occur. In addition there are times when several additional days may pass, (weekends and, or, holidays), extending the holding period. Generally hospitals are the only facilities with a refrigeration room. Arrangements can be made with that facility to use their refrigeration until cremation. However, if death occurs in a private residence or nursing home and the body is brought to our facility for holding, embalming may be required.
The cost of embalming a body is actually only a very small item on the overall funeral bill. As a rule, locally for instance, it would cost more to dig the grave at the cemetery than embalm the body, and with the benefits of having the body embalmed it is a wise investment in the funeral process.