Funerals/casket viewing


is it possible to have a casket viewing if the person was found deceased for 3 days or is it not possible to be embalmed for the viewing?

You've described a situation that embalming, known as the "Restorative Art", has been designed to remedy.

When viewing (showing the deceased in an open casket during the funeral service) is desired and the body itself has been visibly damaged, either in an accident, or in a case like this one where the body has already undergone a period of decomposition such that its appearance may be highly disturbing to visitors, embalming is the technique that's used to make the body presentable.

An important note: embalming is NOT required for health and safety reasons, according to the World Health Organization, unless the person died of a reportable infectious disease. It is an aesthetic decision only.

Since the embalming is primarily for viewing purposes (viewing is an American practice, and not so common elsewhere) a conversation with the mortician/embalmer will help you both decide if embalming will get the results you desire.

If embalming is objectionable because of the toxic chemicals involved (the body is destined for a natural burial, for example) an embalming can be done with less-toxic chemicals. Good embalmers have access to these solutions.

In the case of a body that's been decomposing for more than a couple of days, especially in Summer, strong odors may be present during the funeral, viewing or not, and might be managed with odor absorbers instead of embalming; it depends on the situation. Natural ones are available to funeral directors that minimize the presence of synthetic products in the casket whether it's going to be burned or buried.

Ultimately, the decision to view - and to embalm - is a joint one between the next of kin with control of the body and the funeral home providing the viewing service. However, the funeral director reserves the right to refuse to allow a viewing if they believe the body is just "too far gone" and might reflect poorly on their firms' services. This is a situation in which an experienced funeral home should be able to give you the guidance you need.

For a somewhat irreverent but educational view on the so-called dangers of dead bodies, here's Caitlin Doughty of "Ask a Mortician" on the subject:

Thank you for the question and the opportunity to share this answer with our wider community.


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Cynthia Beal


Typical questions include 1) Where can I go for a natural burial? 2) What types of coffins, urns and other "packaging" are best for natural decomposition? 3)How do I plan for a natural funeral? 4) Do I have to be embalmed? and other questions in this vein. I'm available to answer general consumer questions about natural burial, home and natural funerals, and sustainable cemetery management. I answer questions about general cemetery matters, and offer suggestions about how to deal with remains, cremated or buried, interment rights, rules for cemeteries and plot owners, covering conventional as well as alternative options. I also answer questions from professionals, home funeral guides, and family members about how to manage a natural funeral either in the mortuary or at the home, how to best use natural coffins and urns, and how to convert cemeteries to natural, sustainable practices. I will answer questions from volunteer cemetery managers about how to offer natural burial in their rural, Pioneer, or non-profit cemeteries. If I don't know an answer I'll refer the questioner to someone who does. DISCLAIMER -- I am a certified pre-need sales person in the State of Oregon. I am not a licensed attorney, tax adviser, estate planner, funeral director, embalmer, accountant, public official, or any other professional that may be associated with issues the question brings up and any answers I provide should not be relied upon if such expertise is required by the asker (as per the All Expert suggestion). I provide my own personal opinions, based on my experience in business, Nature and its systems, and with human beings after 55 years of life on the planet.


Natural burial and sustainable cemetery management experience: I'm the founder of the Natural Burial Company and a member of the Cemetery Association of Oregon. Over 25 years in the natural products industry, and over a decade of running the Natural Burial Company, founded in 2004. I've done some consulting for existing and start-up natural cemetery operations. I'm currently an instructor at Oregon State University, facilitating the creation of a program in sustainable cemetery management and stimulating research in cemetery-oriented processes and functions, and I own two historic cemeteries the feature natural burial, based in Oregon.

ICCFA - International Cemetery, Crematory and Funeral Association Green Business Network Funeral Consumers Alliance

American Cemetery Magazine; Funeral Business Advisor; Real Goods Source Book; American Funeral Director Magazine, etc.

There is no degree in natural burials or funerals, and no accredited education provided for sustainable cemetery management. We're developing a program at Oregon State University but it hasn't fully launched yet.

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