This was something of a surprise to me. No state requires routine embalming and some do not require it at all. It is also not required for cremation if performed immediately. Some states require embalming for remains that are to be shipped out of state. Embalming provides no public health benefit, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Canadian health authorities. Hawaii and Ontario forbid embalming if the person died of certain contagious diseases.
Modern embalming consists primarily of washing with a
germicide-insecticide-olfactant. removing all blood and gases from
the body and the insertion of a disinfecting fluid. Funeral home
effluent is not regulated, and waste is flushed into the common
sewer system or septic tank. Embalming does not preserve the body
for any great length of time. It also serves no useful purpose in
preventing the transmission of communicable disease. Refrigeration
is just as effective as embalming for short periods of time, such as
The US Federal Trade Commission says, "Except in certain special
cases, embalming is not required by law. Embalming may be necessary,
however, if you select certain funeral arrangements, such as a
funeral with 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." Refrigeration
is an alternative to maintain a body while awaiting a funeral
service or when there is a delay in making arrangements.
Charges for embalming, dressing, and cosmetology can be covered
under one charge and can vary from $500 to $1500, or more.
Sheltering and refrigeration of a body for up to 3 days can vary
from no charge to a few hundred dollars.