What is a Mortuary?

A mortuary is a place where dead bodies are stored. They may be awaiting identification, an autopsy or transport to a funeral home or burial site.

They may also be undergoing embalming. This process sanitizes and preserves the body so family members can view their loved ones.

While many people use the terms morgue and funeral home interchangeably, a mortuary is typically more focused on a medical-focused approach and often less expensive than a full-service funeral home.

What is a mortuary?

While many people use the terms morgue and mortuary interchangeably, there is a difference. A mortuary is a place where deceased individuals are kept until they are released for further procedures such as an autopsy, or collected by funeral services.

Mortuaries are often attached to hospitals and may be located in the basement or lowest floor of a building. These rooms have refrigerated units that keep the bodies preserved until they are picked up by funeral homes or coroners.

A funeral home, on the other hand, can provide a more individualized experience for the family of the deceased. While they can also perform basic mortuary tasks such as cooling and preserving the body, funeral homes are able to offer more comprehensive services such as grief counseling and memorial planning. They are also more likely to have a crematorium, which offers on-site cremation. In addition, funeral homes can typically offer a viewing and ceremony for the deceased on their premises.


A morgue is a storage area for bodies that are awaiting identification, an autopsy, or a final disposition like burial or cremation. They are often located in hospitals, funeral homes, and coroner’s offices. Morgue workers handle the deceased with care and professionalism and must be able to work with upsetting sights and situations.

Movies and TV often portray a morgue as a morbid museum or exhibit, but the real morgue is much more practical and serves a very important purpose. It’s a place where bodies are kept temporarily until they can be properly identified, an autopsy is done, or for other purposes like crime scene investigations.

A standalone mortuary won’t offer a full suite of funeral services but will usually only provide basic preparation services before burial or cremation. A funeral home, on the other hand, is a fully-functioning facility that can host a memorial service and bury or cremate the body if requested by the family.


Embalming is the process of treating a corpse with chemicals to forestall decomposition, usually for purposes related to funeral ceremonies or medical research. The goal is to keep the body in a state acceptable for viewing during mourning, which is thought to aid the grieving process.

A mortuary worker will typically start by reviewing the wishes of the family and checking the death certificate. Then the body is undressed and placed on a mortician’s table in the supine position with its head elevated by a head block. The embalmer will wash the body and check for lividity, clouded corneas and rigor mortis.

Once the vital signs are all in order, the embalmer will drain blood from a vein and then inject a specialized embalming fluid into one of the arteries. The fluid will then travel through the artery system and diffuse into all tissues. This is known as arterial embalming. The fluid often has a dye added to it to help the embalmer spot all areas that need attention and make sure the solution is distributed evenly.


In many cultures, burial is a way to honor the dead and demonstrate respect for their physical remains. The dead are buried in containers, such as caskets, and sometimes entombed or laid to rest within mausoleums, above-ground tombs. Alternatively, cremation reduces the body to ashes that may be stored in an urn or scattered on land or water.

Before burial, the embalmer washes the corpse and sutures any incisions. He or she also dresses the body and applies cosmetics. Depending on the culture, the body’s posture may carry significant meaning.

Many people wonder whether there’s a difference between a mortuary and a funeral home. It’s important to understand this distinction because some funeral homes may have a mortuary attached, while others don’t. A standalone mortuary is typically less full-service than a funeral home. However, that doesn’t mean that a standalone mortuary can’t offer a range of funeral services. For instance, a mortuary could serve as a place to hold a viewing for immediate family members only.

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