Is Embalming Required By Law?

Published: July 18, 2017 by Vilonia Funeral Home

When meeting with families, the question will sometimes be asked if embalming is required by law.

Before we answer the question if embalming is required by law, let’s delve into what embalming is, and deal with some of the misconceptions of the art of embalming.

According to Wikipedia, “Embalming is the art and science of preserving human remains by treating them (in its modern form with chemicals) to forestall decomposition. The intention is to keep them suitable for public display at a funeral, for religious reasons, or for medical and scientific purposes such as their use as anatomical specimens. The three goals of embalming are sanitization, presentation, and preservation (or restoration).”  You can read the exact Wikipedia article about embalming by going to this link. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embalming

While you can find the practice of embalming rooted in the ancient religious culture of Egypt, the main purpose for embalming human remains today, in the United States is to temporarily disinfect, and the temporary preservation of human remains until after the funeral ceremony is complete and the body has been buried, entombed, or cremated.

Embalming does not stop a body from returning to its natural state in the earth. It only slows the process down so that a family can have the ample amount of time to have services.

Families may choose embalming for a variety of reasons including the desire to have a public viewing and ceremonies with the body present. One reason a family may choose embalming is when additional family members live far away, and it may take several days for everyone to come together to make decisions and have a final viewing.

So what does the law say about embalming? Does a human body have to be embalmed by law? There is no law in Arkansas that requires a human body to be embalmed. Arkansas law does require that if a human body is not embalmed, it must be refrigerated, buried, or cremated within twenty-four hours after death.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires all funeral homes to disclose to families that embalming is not required by law, so that families are not paying for unnecessary or unwanted charges. Here is the disclosure that is required on every funeral home General Price List; “Except in special cases, embalming is not required by law. Embalming may be necessary if you select certain funeral arrangements such as a service with public viewing. If you do not want embalming, you usually have the right to choose an arrangement that does not require you to pay for it, such as direct cremation or immediate burial.”

It is the policy of Vilonia Funeral Home, and most funeral homes that a body must be embalming for a Public Viewing, or ceremonies where the body is present. This is for public health concerns.

While there are some alternative options, embalming may be necessary for transporting human remains out of the state, or across multiple state lines. Some states and foreign countries require a human body to be embalmed to enter the country, or to be shipped from that state or foreign country.

For more information about embalming the question, Is embalming required by law, you can watch this video where we answer this question.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q15JiquKJps&t=3s

You can find more information about the Federal Trade Commission “Funeral Rule” at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0300-ftc-funeral-rule

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