What Do Funeral Homes Do With Organs of the Deceased?


Death is a complicated subject for everyone. Not only do we have to suffer the loss of a loved one, but we often have questions left unanswered. While it may seem morbid to ask your funeral director or family members certain questions, such as what they do with the organs of the deceased, having these questions is normal. 

Funeral homes keep the organs of the deceased in the body and fill them with embalming fluid. If they do an autopsy, the pathologist removes the organs, inspects them, puts them in a plastic bag, and puts them back into the body. 

Death is painful enough process, and it isn’t always easy to discuss the embalming process and what happens to the body of a loved one once they pass away. Although they are no longer alive, you care about your loved one’s body, and you have the right to know what happens to them after death. Let’s talk more about the autopsy and embalming process and how morticians handle organs. 

funeral with coffin

How Are Organs Preserved During the Embalming Process?

Organs are preserved with embalming fluid during the embalming process, though it is not always necessary. If a pathologist performs an autopsy on the deceased, the organs do not need embalming fluid as they place the organs in formalin and then in plastic bags prior to the mortician’s work. 

Let’s break down the individual processes done by morticians to preserve organs. 

Standard Embalming

With a standard embalming process, morticians do not remove organs from the deceased’s body. Everything is done from outside of the body during this process, as without an autopsy, there is no need to remove organs. 

During decomposition, the body processes that keep bacteria at bay stops working. This enhanced bacterial activity means bacteria spread unchecked through our bodies after we die. As bacteria feed on our bodies, they leave behind gases. 

These gases can build up in our organs, causing them to swell and leak. To prevent this, morticians puncture major organs allowing the gases and fluids that build up there to release. After this step, morticians fill the organs with embalming fluid. This fluid helps preserve them and hold off the smells of organ decomposition. 

The embalming fluid that morticians use for organs is different from the fluid used to replace blood in the veins of the deceased. Overall, the solution is similar, but the fluid used for organs is stronger than what morticians put in the rest of the body. 

After an Autopsy

When a pathologist performs an autopsy on a body, they remove the organs of the deceased for inspection. This inspection helps them determine the cause of death. During this process, the doctor performing the autopsy will refrigerate the organs to preserve them if necessary.

Once the autopsy is complete, the pathologist may take samples from organs or even keep the entire organ from the body. As for the remaining organs that don’t need further examination, the doctor places them in a plastic bag and puts them back into the body.

The plastic bags help preserve the organs. So, embalming fluid is unnecessary for the organs in this instance. If there is a funeral service or viewing after the autopsy, the autopsy process will have preserved the organs enough to prevent odors with the plastic bags.

Why Do Funeral Homes Preserve Organs of the Deceased?

Funeral homes preserve the organs of the deceased because it helps postpone decomposition and prevent fluid from leaking out of the body. Embalming the organs helps the body remain preserved for longer than if they were left alone. 

It may seem odd that morticians also preserve the organs of the deceased. It may seem like enough to simply replace the blood with embalming fluid. However, only doing this can cause the organs of the deceased to begin decomposition and leak fluid and gases. To prevent this, morticians preserve the organs of the deceased. 

As discussed above, bacteria spreads through the body after death since our immune system is no longer active to prevent this. The bacteria causes fluid and gases to seep out of the organs. During the embalming process, morticians drain these gases and fluids. 

Sometimes draining is not enough to ensure no fluid leaks from organs as they decompose. Remember, the body continues to decompose even after embalming. So, fluids may still gather in the body and leak. To help prevent this from interrupting the funeral service, morticians will pack the anus and vagina with cotton to prevent leakage.

So, morticians preserve the organs of the deceased to slow down decomposition and prevent leakage of fluids and gases created by bacteria. Overall the embalming process is an effective way to ensure that the body lasts through the funeral allowing the family to say goodbye and preserving the organs helps. 

Once the morticians finish the embalming process, several steps are still left. If you want to learn more about what else morticians do to prepare the body for a funeral, check out our article here

Are There Laws Requiring Embalming?

There are no federal or state laws requiring the embalming of a dead body. You may face some local regulations regarding the amount of time a mortician can preserve a body before the family can no longer view it.

In every state, you can bring the body of your loved one home with you. You can clean them, dress them, and even hold a private viewing in your own home. You have plenty of freedoms for your loved one’s body.

Some states have specific timeline requirements for embalming, refrigeration, or cremation. Most of these rules require the family to refrigerate or embalm the body after a specific time. Florida, Kansas, and other states require the body to be refrigerated 24 hours after death. However, other states like Iowa don’t require this for 72 hours.

Ensure you stay up to date on your local rules regarding the timing of embalming and refrigeration to ensure you aren’t breaking any laws. Overall, embalming is not a requirement in any state. Instead, you can choose to avoid the process altogether and refrigerate or cremate the body of your loved one.

Final Thoughts

The organs of your loved one are often left in their body unless morticians do an autopsy. Morticians inject organs directly with embalming fluid to ensure they decompose slower than normal. So, morticians will not remove organs unless it is necessary for an autopsy. 

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Alex Noel

Hi there! I'm Alex Noel and live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I started this website to share my experience. My goal is to provide Americans a more fulfilling goodbye.

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