What Is a Mortuary?

A mortuary is a space where a body is kept after death. It is commonly found in hospitals, care centres and hospices.

The dead are stored here until they are released to funeral homes or for further examination, such as an autopsy. The facility is usually refrigerated to delay decomposition.

Body Preparation

A body is prepared in a mortuary setting in the lead up to funeral or cremation. This involves bathing, dressing and refrigeration or dry ice application, depending on what the family wishes to happen to the remains.

The first thing that is done is the body is washed in a special soap solution. This is important as it removes traces of blood and body fluids. It also makes the body look softer and more welcoming to family members during the viewing process.

During this time, the remains are moved to help relieve rigor mortis by bending and flexing them. This helps to restore the normal position of the arteries and veins, particularly in the neck which is where two of the largest circulatory vessels are located, the carotid artery and jugular vein.

A white board is completed at this point which records information such as whether valuables are to stay with the body or return to the family and if it was coffined or dressed. This is then’signed out’ in the mortuary register.


Forensic anthropology – the study of human bones and other hard tissues – is often utilized in a mortuary setting. Forensic dental and fingerprint personnel are also useful in assisting with the identification process.

During the recovery, removal and transport to a mortuary following a CBRN mass fatality incident, all efforts must be made to preserve the integrity of the body and associated evidence as much as possible, while maintaining the necessary chain of command and minimising contamination. All personnel involved should be well versed in the appropriate protocols and personal protective equipment.

Any body parts that are not attached to the dead person but are found at the scene should be bagged separately and clearly labelled with respects to their location and their relation to other body parts, for example ‘tooth from near body X’. Provisional matches should be brought to the attention of the reconciliation coordinator as soon as they are identified, so that an official identification can be made.


Launching a mortuary services business is a unique undertaking that demands innovation and empathy for the families you’ll serve. You’ll need to abide by the legal requirements of your jurisdiction and secure a license, as well as ensure that your facilities are safe, clean and sterile.

Embalming is a process that’s performed in order to disinfect and preserve the remains of a deceased person. It also helps to slow down the natural decomposition process, which is essential for maintaining a healthy environment for funeral directors and others who handle the body after death.

Once the body is embalmed, it can be dressed in clothing provided by the family and then casketed. Some cultures believe that the proper dress of the body will help it travel to the afterlife in a more beautiful form. During this time, friends and family may pay their respects by viewing the body and saying their last farewells. This period is known as the wake or calling hours.


Cremation is an alternative to traditional in-ground burial. It typically does not require embalming, and you can still hold a funeral service. Many people choose to bury their loved ones after a cremation ceremony, but some people prefer to scatter the ashes.

When the body is ready for cremation, a metal identification tag stays with it throughout the process. The next of kin or executor must verify that the remains are the deceased and sign an authorization form for cremation.

The body is placed in a special furnace called a cremation chamber or retort and exposed to high temperatures. When the bone fragments are cooled, they are respectfully removed from the retort and inspected for any remnants of metal such as surgical pins and titanium joints. The remains are then pulverized into a fine, powder-like consistency known as cremated remains or ashes. The ashes are then transferred to a basic container or an urn, which the family can keep for long-term storage.

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