Preservation of the body before placement in the coffin.

   

Suggested means and authorizations

Definition, objectives and techniques used in thanatopraxis

Legal obligations

Thanatopraxis and religion

Europe and acts of thanatopraxis

Cases of embalming forbidden

Country requiring preparation of the body before repatriation

Suggested reading

 

WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  Suggested means of preservation and required authorizations

The preservation of the body before placing in a coffin may be performed as follows:
 

1) WITH COLD

Use of dry ice (carbon dioxide ice)
This is the common, traditional technique for preservation at home.
It gives perfect results in 95% of the cases.
Dry ice is applied on different parts of the body, which freeze on contact (- 96 degrees).
The ice must be changed every 24 hours.
Attention : Some funeral homes use products for freezing food product, not dry ice, in order to save money. These products do not satisfy the criteria imposed for preservation of bodies.
No administrative requirements, no authorization required, no police involvement.

Use of refrigeration equipment (refrigerated lockers, beds or technical ramps)
Refrigerated lockers are used in mortuaries and funerary chambers.
Beds and refrigerated ramps may be suggested if the body will remain in the home.
No administrative requirements, no authorization required, no police involvement.
 

2) CHEMICAL PROCESS

Embalming (synonyms: thanatopraxis, formolisation, preservation act, IFT®).
Injection of 4 to 6 litres of an aseptic and sterilizing formaldehyde product. This procedure takes about one and a half hours to complete.
The preservation is perfect in 90% of the cases.
This method implies:
- no legal opposition on the death certificate delivered by the physician;
- a signed authorization by the family;
- an authorization of care delivered by city hall. The description of the procedure and a sample of the product used must be supplied by the embalmer.
- The presence of a police official, a game warden or an officer of the municipal police force to witness the procedure is subject to compensation.

Legislation regarding preservation care: authorization, product and record of proceedings (french).

 

When death occurs at home, use of a preservation method such as :
- dry ice,
- refrigerated ramp,
- embalming.
to avoid transferring the mortal remains to a private funeral parlour or having to keep the remains in a refrigerated locker.
This procedure may be recommended, but not imposed, when closing the coffin is deferred several days.

 

WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  Definition of thanatopraxis (embalming)

Thanatopraxis or embalming consists of several techniques used to preserve and expose the mortal remains, with somatic care.
From the Greek "THANATOS", the god of death and "PRAXIS", practice.

 

WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  Aim of thanatopraxis

   -  Delay the natural process of decomposition.

    -  Promote hygiene and suppress odours.

    -  Give a more natural appearance to the face.

 

WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  Procedure and techniques used in thanatopraxis

  • Throughout washing to achieve complete external asepsis of the body.
     

  • Incision in the middle of the clavicula.
    Injection of a formaldehyde solution in the carotid artery and simultaneous evacuation of blood through the jugular vein.
    Other access or evacuation points may be selected by the technician.
      

  • Elimination of liquids and gas through an incision near the navel.
    Injection of concentrated formaldehyde.
      

  • Closing of the incisions.
      

  • External washing of the remains, asepsis of orifices (mouth, nose, ears...).
     

  • A sample bottle of the liquid used is attached to the ankle.

End of the intervention with clothing, make-up and hairdressing.

 

WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  Legal obligations to have somatic care performed

Some countries require the injection of a formaldehyde liquid before repatriation of a coffin (see below the list of these countries).

 

The cost of these procedures may be high : request a written estimate and know you can freely choose which funeral home for embalming care or which transporter.

 

WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  Thanatopraxis and religion

      - Accepted by Christian religion (Catholic or Protestant).
      - Forbidden by Jewish religion.
      - Forbidden by Islam (except for repatriation of the coffin to some countries)

 

WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  Europe and embalming practices

       High prescriber : England.
       Recent introduction, occasionally performed : Germany, Spain, Ireland.
       No interest: Austria, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Switzerland.
       Ban and avoidance of these procedures : Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Luxembourg, Scandinavian countries.
       (except for repatriation of a coffin to some countries).

 

WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  Affections that forbid somatic care

- Anthrax*.
- Cholera*.
- Hemorrhagic fevers*.
- Viral hepatitis.
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
- Plague*.
- Rabies.
- AIDS.
- Smallpox and other orthopoxviruses*.
- Any serious septic condition, upon attending physician's stipulation
*: the remains must be placed in a hermetically sealed coffin equipped with a gas purifier immediately following death at home or before exiting the health care institution.
Final closing of the coffin is done without any delay.

Order of July 20, 1998, establishing the list of contagious diseases forbidding certain funerary procedures identified in the by-law 76-435, May 18, 1976, amending the by-law of December 32, 1941.

Order from the Conseil d'Etat, November 8, 1999, authorizing again somatic care for :
      - Serious septic condition.
      - Confirmed hepatitis A.
      - Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

 

WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  Countries imposing somatic care before repatriation

ALBANIA ARGENTINA AUSTRALIA BANGLADESH
BARBADOS BENIN BOLIVIA BRAZIL
BULGARIA CANADA CHILI CHINA
COLUMBIA COSTA-RICA CUBA CYPRUS
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC EGYPT EL SALVADOR GHANA
GREECE GUATEMALA HONDURAS HUNGARY
ICELAND INDIA INDONESIA IRAN
IRAQ JAPAN JORDANIA LEBANON
LIBERIA LIBYA MALAYSIA (except Muslims) MALDIVES
MAURITIUS MEXICO MONGOLIA NEW-ZEALAND
NICARAGUA PAKISTAN PANAMA PARAGUAY
PERU PHILIPPINES PUERTO-RICO ROMANIA
RUSSIA SAUDI ARABIA SOUTH AFRICA SRI LANKA
SYRIA    TAIWAN UNITED-KINGDOM URUGUAY
U.S.A. VENEZUELA VIETNAM  

 

WB00860_1.GIF (969 octets)  Suggested reading
       
       L'ART DE L'EMBAUMEMENT, an introduction to thanatopraxis, by Eric Bourgeois. Editions Berger (Canada)
       Distribution in France and Belgium: DG Diffusion, rue Max Planck BP 734  31683 LABEGE

 

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