Free «Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain» Essay Sample

Embalming is usually carried out to preserve the human remains and make them presentable for public display. This practice is widely used in Northern America. The process to which a body may be subjected are to some extent circumscribed by law. For instance, the next of kin must be consulted and his signature taken before any process is undertaken or such provision must be made in the decedent’s will. But in embalming no such permission is needed at all, thus the legality of this practice is questionable. From, The Principle and Practices of Embalming, the author agrees there is some question on the legality of this practice, he adds that it is so unusual for a responsible member of a bereaved family to instruct the mortician to embalm the body of a deceased relative. He concludes that, unless the family specifies otherwise, the act of entrusting the body to the care of a funeral establishment gives a go ahead permission to embalm. One may wonder at the docility of Americans who embrace this extraordinary process, unfortunately they themselves pay for this act and remain ignorant of what actually take place. Books on the subject are very rare to come by. Custom to this process has changed completely, in that today, family members who might wish to be in attendance would certainly be dissuaded by the funeral director. All others, except apprentices, are excluded by law from the preparation room.

The process of embalming includes: The body is laid first in the undertaker’s morgue ready for embalming. The embalmer with his tools and chemicals fixes begins to fix or soften tissues, shrink or distend it as needed, dry it and restore the more. He/she then uses cosmetics, waxes, and paints to fill and cover features, even sometimes uses plasters of to replace the limbs. Throught this process, there are ingenious aids to prop and stabilize the body of the deceased. According to Mr. John H. Eckels, the president of the Eckels College of Mortuary Science, this first part of embalming procedure can be done so fast by an experienced practitioner with only slight incision. He adds that, it is necessary to drain blood as it not only helps in disinfecting but also prevents disfigurements caused by discoloration.( Time is another vital factor in embalming, authors argue that this should be done within one hour from death to avoid some problems and complications.)The next step is to attach a long, hollow needle (called trocar) into the abdomen, poked around the entrails and chest cavity, the contents of which are pumped out and replaced with a fluid. The abdomen is sewn up and the deceased face heavily creamed. This done the embalmed body is left untouched for around 8 to 10 hours before restoration process begins.

During the restoration process, the embalmer uses cosmetics such waxes, plasters, cotton, and so on to work on any problems at the head, mouth, limbs, necks and face as a whole. The embalmer also seeks out and fills the hollowed and sunken areas by injection. The body is then washed, shaved, and dressed. The deceased is then placed in a casket and a few last touches made. In his book , Restorative art, Sheridan Mayer, admits that our customs require the presentation of our dead in the resemblance of normality although only few individuals die in the full bloom of health. All these complete, the funeral notifies his staff furnished by the family and a religious service may be held before the body is placed for public viewing. The casket is then taken for burial were everybody present should be black and the body is united with the soil. This done, the funeral director rand his team will be successful of relieving the family of every detail as he has done everything in his power to make the funeral a real pleasure for everybody concerned.


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