A morgue is a facility that stores human corpses awaiting identification, removal for autopsy, respectful burial or cremation. The bodies are usually refrigerated to delay decomposition.
Standalone morgues typically don’t have funeral directors or provide memorial products such as caskets. However, some mortuaries offer mixed facilities, combining body storage and embalming with onsite funeral services.
The Difference Between a Mortuary and a Morgue
While both mortuaries and morgues deal with the bodies of the deceased, there are some key differences between these facilities. The main difference is that mortuaries provide funeral services and have specialized equipment for embalming, cosmetic preparation, casketing, and viewing and visitation. Morgues, on the other hand, are used by government agencies to perform autopsies and other medical investigations to determine the cause of death.
A morgue is typically located in a hospital or other medical facility, and it can also be an independent business. In the past, people often feared that they might be buried alive, and morgues were designed to help alleviate this concern. These facilities allowed the deceased to remain in the morgue for a period of time before being buried, as an assurance that they were actually dead. This practice ended once scientists developed reliable methods of confirming that a person had died. The term “waiting mortuary” is now a nostalgic term for the rooms that once served this purpose.
The Process of Embalming
Embalming is a process that helps delay the natural deterioration of a body after death. This allows friends and family members the chance to say their final goodbyes and come to terms with their loss. It is also an important process for those who are planning a viewing and want their loved one to look as close to their natural state as possible.
The embalmer will start by washing the body and drying it. Next, they will begin cavity embalming. This involves using a trocar to puncture the organs and abdomen to drain them of fluid and release gas. They then fill the peritoneal cavity with concentrated embalming fluid and suture it closed.
This is followed by surface embalming. During this step, the embalmer will massage the limbs to dispel signs of rigor mortis and set the expression. They will also shave the body, style hair, dress the body and apply cosmetics. They will also use plastic eye caps to keep the eyes closed and a mouth shaper to position the lower jaw.
Preparing a Body for Burial
When a body is ready for burial, the funeral home will clean and dress the body. They will usually use clothing that reflects the person’s personal style and culture or religious customs. Occasionally, families will opt for temporary or cosmetic embalming. This is done to enhance the appearance of the deceased for a viewing and a funeral service.
For families who are choosing a natural or green burial, the funeral home may not be required to embalm the body. In this case, the body is simply buried shortly after death. Alternatively, the family can choose to wrap the body in a shroud made of natural materials.
For some people, the process of caring for a loved one’s body leading up to their death is confronting and difficult to talk about. But more and more, families are choosing to take on some of this responsibility themselves. They may want to help prepare the body in their own homes or even undertake the entire process themselves.
The Final Arrangements
The decisions made after someone’s death can be some of the most difficult and expensive that survivors will face. They are also often made during a time of grief and shock, making them difficult to carry out perfectly. For these reasons, many people choose to make their final arrangements ahead of time.
A funeral home or mortuary can be a good place to start making these arrangements. They may offer a full range of services from hosting a funeral and memorial service to helping place an obituary in the newspaper. However, funeral homes and mortuaries tend to be more expensive than other options.
It is a good idea to talk about your wishes with loved ones while they are still alive. Having these conversations can prevent confusion and conflict after your death. Leaving written instructions is also a good idea. This can be done through a will or a health care directive. It can also be as simple as a letter to an executor or trusted friend.