What Is a Mortuary?

A mortuary is a place where dead people are kept. It is often found in hospitals or medical centers for autopsies and investigations.

Most standalone morgues don’t offer full funeral services like funeral homes do. They focus on preparing the body and can be more affordable if you don’t need a casket.


When a person passes away, he or she needs to be stored until it can be identified, taken for autopsy, or otherwise prepared for burial or cremation. That is where a mortuary comes in.

Most adults have seen depictions of a morgue in films and television shows. While they tend to be somewhat overdramatic, the basic idea is true: a morgue is where dead people are kept temporarily until they can be examined and disposed of.

While mortuaries often have a specific location in hospitals or medical centers, they can also be found at funeral homes and other types of care facilities. The goal is to provide empathetic handling of the recently deceased and maintain strict hygienic standards.

To prevent bacteria from spreading, mortuary items must be properly stored and transported. Using a mortuary cooler is a great way to store bodies while still providing easy access for staff to handle them. Many different sizes and types are available, from walk-in units to single-body freezers.


Surgical embalming is when blood and internal fluids are replaced with a mixture of chemicals that slow organic decomposition and restore the body to a more lifelike appearance. The embalming solution typically includes formaldehyde, ethanol, glutaraldehyde, water and a dye.

Once the cadaver is prepared, an embalmer checks vital signs to ensure that death has occurred. Embalmers look for clouded corneas, lividity and rigor mortis. They also check for a pulse in the carotid or radial artery.

Then an incision is made in the lower abdomen. A sharp surgical instrument called a trocar is then inserted into the incision and used to puncture each organ in the chest and abdomen, drain them of liquid and liberate accumulated gases. The embalmer then injects the remaining embalming solution into each organ and into the body cavities.

Choosing between embalming and alternative preservation methods such as refrigeration is an important decision that should be based on religious needs, cultural traditions and personal views. Your memorial specialist can advise you on the best options available to thoughtfully commemorate your loved one.

Preparation for Burial or Cremation

A mortuary can be a place that offers both burial and cremation services or it may only offer the former. Depending on the service provider, they may also focus more on the mortuary sciences and less on funeral services, which are often more focused on memorialization and the end-of-life ceremonies.

When the time comes to either inter a body or send it to be cremated, there are a few key steps. The first is to make sure that the identification process was accurate and that authorization was obtained to cremate the body.

Once the correct information has been confirmed, the body is washed and dressed. This is a traditional ritual in some religions and it can be a final act of dignity for the deceased person.

Some mortuaries use hydro aspirators in the embalming process, which helps to wash and sanitize the body. The body is then placed in a casket or into an urn for cremation.


During the identification process, the bodies are photographed and any other external features of the deceased, including tattoos, scars and skin markings are recorded. Forensic osteology is also used to examine the bones of the deceased.

The identification process is based on best evidence and a provisional match is made for each individual. This is confirmed by a member of the identification board (either a coroner or procurator fiscal) and is then presented to family members for their view.

If a body is not identified within 7 days of admission to the mortuary or has inconclusive fingerprint results, the case will be referred to the ID unit. This involves scanning the body using a LODOX StatScan X-ray machine and examining the internal features for potential markers of identity, such as healed fractures, surgical interventions and implants. Identifying a body takes time and can be traumatic for relatives. Therefore, a viewing appointment system is in place.

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