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Mortuary Equipment and Practices

A mortuary, or morgue is where the deceased are placed as they await identification, autopsy, or removal to a funeral home. When the bodies are placed here they are placed in refrigeration to slow down the decomposition process.

There are two types of cold chambers in the mortuary. Positive temperature maintains the bodies at temperatures between 2°C and 4°C. This is usually used for bodies expected to stay in the mortuary for a few weeks as they await burial or removal. This does not prevent decomposition but it does slow down the process. The other type of cold chamber uses negative temperature. The bodies are kept at temperatures between -10°C and -50°C. This freezes the body, reducing decomposition greatly. Bodies are kept in this type of cold chamber awaiting forensic investigations if the medical examiner or coroner deems their death to be suspicious as it is easier to perform an autopsy when they are not decomposed. These fridges can hold many bodies at any one time.

If someone has died of natural causes or there isn’t anything suspicious about their death an autopsy does not need to be performed. This means the anatomical pathology technician can start preparing the body for its removal. This requires the body to be embalmed.

Embalming preserves the body so that it will be presentable for open casket viewings. The embalming process begins with washing and massaging the muscles. This helps to relax them. Disinfectant is used to remove bacteria and any blood or fluids that may be present in the body. Then the eyes and mouth of the body are closed. This gives the body a peaceful look as if they are sleeping. This can be quite comforting for friends and family that come to view the body. Glue or suture stitches are used to keep the eyes and mouth closed. Following this, the blood is then drained from the body using artery tubes. It is replaced with a formaldehyde-based chemical that is mixed specially for each body, and this is pushed into the body which helps to get the blood out. A trocar is used to remove any fluid that isn’t blood from other parts of the body, such as the stomach.

During this part of the process, other organs are also punctured with a small needle or surgical instrument to let out any gasses that are built up inside of them. These organs also get with the preserving formaldehyde solution, which is pumped into the body with a cavity injector. Wounds created from the tubes are discretely sewn up with suture stitches.

The body is then dressed in clothes usually provided by the family. The anatomical pathology technician in charge of the body then applies makeup to the deceased to make them less pale and more life-like. Any marks sustained before death such as bruising or cuts are covered up to help make the body look presentable. Once the body is prepared it is released to the family or moved to a funeral home awaiting burial.

Want to learn more about the body after death? Get your tickets for The Post Mortem Live here - coming to a town near you soon!


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