What is a Mortuary?

A mortuary is a refrigerated area in hospitals and medical centres where dead bodies are stored. They await identification or transportation for autopsy, respectful burial, or cremation.

Unlike funeral homes, mortuaries tend to be more streamlined and focused on the deceased. They typically offer quick viewings for immediate family members and on-site cremation without full-service memorialization services.


Some people may confuse a mortuary with a funeral home, but there are key differences between the two. Generally, a mortuary is a separate facility that focuses on mortuary science and on-site cremation.

Mortuaries are often found in hospitals, and they serve as the temporary storage spaces for corpses that await identification or removal for an autopsy, respectful burial, or other procedures. Typically, the bodies are kept in refrigerated environments that slow down the natural decomposition process.

In addition, mortuaries are required to follow specific state and local laws regarding how they handle the dead. They also have to be licensed to ensure that they are following all of the proper requirements.

In many cases, a funeral home will have its own mortuary on-site where they can perform embalming services and offer viewing rooms for family members to pay their respects. However, this is not always the case and some funeral homes don’t have their own morgue.


A mortuary serves as a place to store a body awaiting identification, autopsy, respectful burial or cremation. It’s typically refrigerated to slow down the decomposition process and provides a place for family members to pay their respects.

When a mortuary is connected to a funeral home, they can offer full funeral services such as embalming and on-site burial or cremation. They also offer grief counseling, help with legal paperwork, an obituary and memorial preparation.

Mortuaries that are standalone can only provide basic assistance during the grieving process as they don’t have a funeral home attached to them. This is because funeral homes are more focused on the memorialization aspect of death and can serve their clientele better.


Mortuaries can be found within hospitals, medical centers, hospice care facilities and retirement homes. They typically feature refrigerated drawer-like compartments where the bodies are stored temporarily. Most adults have seen a depiction of a morgue in movies and TV, but this may not be the most accurate representation.

Standalone morgues and mortuaries don’t usually offer the full suite of services that a funeral home does, like cremation, embalming and burial preparation. For example, a standalone morgue won’t sell caskets and urns to family members or provide a space for memorials.

The term morgue can also refer to a room within a funeral home that is used for viewings and other ceremonies. A funeral home often features a morgue and crematorium in the same room, which is where the confusion sometimes lies. However, a mortuary can have a separate cremation room that is not in the same location as its morgue. A separate cremation room allows for on-site cremation and can accommodate the needs of families who want to witness their loved one’s incineration.


The mortuary is a space that is used for the temporary storage of dead bodies. Typically, it is located in hospitals or medical centers. It is also the location where autopsies are performed.

While it is possible for a funeral home to operate a mortuary, it is more common for a mortuary to be run by a separate organization. This is because the focus of a mortuary is more centered on the mortuary sciences and not as much on the funeral services that are provided to families.

The functions of a mortuary include cooling and preservation, identification, viewing, and transporting the body to the funeral home. The facility is usually refrigerated, which slows the decomposition process. This prevents the body from deteriorating too quickly and makes it easier to identify when the time comes to prepare the body for burial. The staff at a mortuary is trained to be compassionate and respectful of the deceased.

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