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Embalming and the Standard of Care

Handling a case that involves embalming of a decedent is difficult and challenging. Having a consultant or expert embalmer is the key to understanding the standard of care or any possible torts involved.

A well embalmed deceased that is considered prepared with excellence is due to several essentials. The dynamics range from: the use of soft water, co-injection additives and quality preservative chemicals. The mentioned will assist with great embalming; however, poor analyst of the decedent’s condition prior to embalming could be horrific. I have had the opportunity to work with the plaintiffs and the defendants where the embalming report that was prepared by the embalmer made the details very clear or very vague.

The overall condition of the decedent prior to embalming is paramount. The following is a small list of challenging conditions: diabetes, vascular diseases, renal failure, sepsis, jaundice, decomposition and trauma of any kind. In addition, chemotherapy, radiation treatments and sustained life support can add complications to the embalmer. It is very important that the embalmer make sure that the report indicates as much information possible to support his procedures that may become questioned by the family or management at any time. At the same rate, hastening and quick procedures is not an option when quality is fundamental. This is an on going challenge that loved ones and management places on embalmers without considering the serious consequences.

Majority of the time, the embalmer is not aware of the actual cause or manner of death. The death certificate regulations are indeed different from state to state; some states provide only a transit or burial permit in order to proceed with the services and not provide the cause of death for weeks. With experience, the embalmer visually examines the decedent to analysis the extreme condition of the tissue. When the procedure is beyond their knowledge, the practitioner should call on a more experienced embalmer.

An embalming report is prepared before the procedure begins. This report aids as a learning and measuring tool of a known or unknown condition is evaluated. During and after the embalming the report is updated concerning changes, improvements and problems that may occur prior to the disposition. One of the primary actions for good results is the use of quality embalming chemicals. Another is adequate time to carry out the procedure.

Often families are grieving and want to see their loved one expeditiously and not consider that the human tissue needs time to allow the chemical to respond to swelling, distention, discoloration, odor, gases that my be present and the unknown. Like any other business profession, embalming has its challenges that require experience and additional knowledge. A minimal of 48 hours can be adequate for minor restorative condition and 72 hours can be adequate for major restorative treatments. True professionalism is in the heart. To state that one is a professional, is not so much of what does, but rather the quality, or lack thereof, which one brings to the assigned task.

By Shun Newbern
Funeral Home, Cremation, Embalming Expert Witness and Consultant
Shun Newbern, CFSP has over 20 years of funeral service experience, embalming in excess of 12,000 bodies and is the founder of Shun Newbern & Associates, a national speaking and consulting service on funeral service, cremation and cemetery matters. As a funeral director and embalmer, he assists in supervising a large staff of embalmers of a high volume location. He has written a series of articles on embalming, funeral ethics and prep room management in the Funeral Home and Cemetery News, ICCFA , The Director, Morticians Journal, Mortuary Management and The Scope. Because of his professionalism and attention to detail, this is the consultant or funeral expert that you want to support your team in a funeral service matter.

Copyright Shun Newbern

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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