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What is Embalming – Does a Body Have to be Embalmed?

what is embalmingClients have asked me, what is embalming and does a body have to be embalmed? The answer is yes and no and it depends. I thought it would be helpful to define it and outline some parameters under which embalming is authorized or required.

Embalming means to preserve and disinfect part of all of the dead human body by any means other than by refrigeration.  With the written or verbal permission of the Estate Trustee’s or the person who signs the funeral contract, the body can be embalmed.

Embalming does not include religious rites relating to the washing of a body. Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act, 2002 c.8, Sched.11,ss 47 (1), 54 (1).

Accordingly there are segments of the religious community that do not authorize a body to be embalmed.  For example, people of the Jewish and Baha’i faith do not authorize embalming of their loved ones.

Embalming may be authorized if a family wishes to have a delayed visitation and funeral service for the deceased.  A common factor here is that the family is waiting for a special day or for family members to arrange and complete travel plans in order to participate in the visitation and funeral service. Embalming may also be authorized for aesthetic reasons relating to viewing of the deceased.

Alternatively, embalming may be ordered by the Public Health Office if the deceased died of an infectious disease.  I never thought I would see this in Ontario.  Perhaps you also remember the SARS out break a few years ago.  In this scenario, the family was quarantined for 2 weeks before they could participate in the funeral of the deceased.  If the family wished to view the deceased, then the body would need to be embalmed.

Another scenario where embalming is mandatory, is if the deceased is going to be shipped out of the country.  For example, if the deceased loved one’s wishes were to be buried in Croatia; then there are detailed preparation requirements that must be fulfilled and documented, as part of the process to send the body back to Croatia for burial.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about when embalming is mandatory please contact me.

I appreciate your feedback. And please leave a link back to your own blog too if you have one, via the commentluv feature here on the site.

Until next time,


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