The Australian Institute of Embalming provides the following information on the art and science of modern embalming:
What is Embalming?
Professional embalming is not meant to be the mysterious process often seen in the media. Today, the methods used to prepare the dead for viewing and funeral ceremonies are far advanced, scientifically, from those used in ancient times.
Embalming is a three-fold process:
- for restoration of the deceased to an acceptable physical appearance
- to sanitise the deceased, and
- to preserve the deceased from the time of embalming to the time of final disposition
Preservation itself can be adjusted to include longer periods of time, as needed.
What Are The Reasons For Embalming?
Professional embalming restores the deceased to an acceptable appearance. In effect, embalming creates a "Memory Picture" that will be carried with the bereaved for time and eternity. The goal of restoration is not so much making the deceased to look "lifelike", but rather to try to remove the devastation caused by many long-term diseases and illnesses. Other purposes include restoration from trauma, chemotherapeutic drugs and the removal of visible postmortem changes that may have begun to appear.
The often heard theory that "germs die upon death" is false. It is proved that a dead human body does indeed harbour disease-causing micro-organisms that can be a public health hazard. Micro-organisms found naturally in the human body begin to escalate in number after death. Professional embalming alleviates these hazards due to the sanitising components of the embalming solutions, thereby allowing the bereaved to view the deceased in a safe and sanitary environment.
Professional embalming ensures the preservation of the deceased so that the funeral need not take place immediately.
This allows adequate time for people to arrive from distant locations, allows the bereaved to come to terms with the death, allows more time for the arrangement and planning of the funeral, and allows adequate time for the bereaved to say their "goodbyes". Preservation also allows the deceased to be transported to a distant point wihout arriving in a decomposed and unsanitary state.
How Is The Deceased Embalmed?
Professional embalming involves the replacement of bodily fluids with a sanitising and preserving solution. This solution is distributed through the circulatory system of the body.
The diffusion of this solution throughout the body tissues retards deterioration and restores a natural appearance. After embalming, the deceased is washed and dressed, the hair is styled, and cosmetics are applied, if requested.