Embalming is a process that preserves the human body for burial arrangements or transport purposes. Chemicals are injected into the bloodstream to delay the body’s natural decomposition process. Embalming is also how a body looks presentable, particularly necessary for funeral viewings.
Embalming is an additional cost and service within the funeral industry. In this article we’ll look into the process of embalming, the costs associated with it and whether it’s required in Australia.
Content warning: this article will go into some details about the process of embalming, which may be upsetting or uncomfortable for some readers.
The embalming process.
There are a few different stages of embalming that a body goes through.
Sanitising the body.
First the body needs to be washed and sanitised in disinfectant solution. Within a few hours after death rigor mortis sets in, meaning the muscles in the body become stiff and hard to move. To combat this, the body is massaged and adjusted to reverse this.
All blood and bodily fluids are drained from the veins and replaced with embalming chemicals via the arteries. This helps bring colour back to the skin, because at this point it’s looking pale and washed out.
Cavity embalming is an alternative to arterial embalming. Instead of draining fluid through the veins, a small incision is made in the abdomen and a tube is inserted to drain the organs of fluid and gas. The “cavity” left from draining is then filled with the embalming chemicals and the incision is stitched back together.
This final step is likely the most well known part of embalming, thanks to the rise of morticians on TikTok.
The body may be washed a second time, then is prepared for viewing. The body will be dressed in clothing provided by the family, and the mortician will apply makeup and style hair. Extra work may be needed on the face for viewing, such as an injection to plump facial features, setting the eyes closed with caps and invisible stitches to keep the jaw in place.
Why choose embalming? Is it required in Australia?
There are a few reasons why embalming might be considered, but it is becoming more uncommon in Australia, as cremation is a more popular choice.
Reasons to consider embalming include:
- If a funeral viewing will be occurring prior to burial.
- There is a delay between death and the burial.
- The body needs to be transported overseas or interstate.
- The body will be buried above ground, such as in a mausoleum, vault or crypt.
Embalming of the body is only required for transportation or burial above ground in Australia. Embalming is also not necessary for cremation, which is one of the many reasons why a cremation is much more affordable than a traditional burial.
Costs of embalming.
The cost of embalming can be anywhere from $600 to $1,400. Alone this might not be a steep price, but once you add up the price of coffins, funeral director fees, burial services and other funeral expenses, the costs can get exorbitant.
Whilst embalming is a personal choice and appropriate in some circumstances, if an affordable funeral is what you’re looking for, then cremation might be a better option.
Is embalming environmentally friendly?
Embalming fluid is not eco-friendly, as the chemicals are buried in the ground and gradually work their way into the soil and underground waterways. The average 4 hectare cemetery holds enough embalming fluid to fill a small swimming pool.
Buried bodies also release methane as they decompose, which adds to the negative environmental impact.
If you are considering a natural or green burial, the use of chemicals to preserve the body will not be allowed.
Is embalming the right choice for me or my loved ones?
If there is a specific reason or cultural consideration to embalm, then it may be the right choice for you. Some people find funeral viewings helpful to cope with grief and closure, so this is a perfect reason for embalming.
However, for a more eco-friendly funeral or a more affordable option, cremation may be the better option for you and your family.
To speak with one of our funeral arrangers, please give us a call on 1800 071 176, or head to bare.com.au for more information.