Your loved ones might be asked whether your body should be embalmed. This is an expensive service that is not often necessary, and some find it preferable to leave a body in peace. Your views would therefore be useful to them.
Scientists warn that decomposition commences within minutes of death, so anyone seeking to preserve a body needs to act fast. Embalming has been performed since ancient times as a way of delaying decomposition. Nowadays it is most often used where a body needs preservation so it can be transported over long distances, or where it may be visible, such as in an open casket.
Embalming involves the cutting and draining of bodily fluids, to be replaced with a preservative liquid, to which colouring is often added so that the skin regains its natural hue.
For an insight into the history and procedures involved, take a look at this Embalming website: not for the squeamish! Although embalming processes are used today, nobody is sure what methods were used by the Ancient Egyptians, who became experts in the art of preservation of bodies during the 18th dynasty, when Pharaohs were immaculately preserved.
You may have seen coverage of a man mummified recently. Alan Billis died in 2011 having agreed to donate his body to scientists keen to discover how the Ancient Egyptians mummified bodies. The subsequent procedures were filmed for a Channel 4 documentary, ‘Mummifying Alan’ which provided fascinating viewing for those interested in the preservation of bodies.
A new embalming method has been adopted recently to help train aspiring surgeons: the Thiel method leaves the body looking and feeling real, without the unpleasant smell and toxic effects on those working on the body.
A Which? Report in 2012 accused funeral directors of misleading the bereaved into feeling they must have the body embalmed (see This is Money report). Save yourself and your loved ones from potential pressure of this sort by making your wishes clear.