“We have not at any point prescribed embalming as a method of protecting public health.”
- Bernadette Burden, spokesperson for the CDC, Atlanta, Georgia published in mortuary management magazine 2008
The Danger That Doesn't Exist
Want to dive deeper into specifics?
There is NO law prohibiting a viewing without embalming.
However funeral homes may require embalming for viewings
even when embalming isn’t legally required for viewings.
funeral homes decide how they want bodies, “their calling card”, to look on display.
So if you want a viewing without embalming, shop around to find a funeral director who is familiar and comfortable with public viewings without embalming.
...or refuse to hire a funeral director and hold a DIY a viewing .
...or hold a visitation (which is a viewing with the casket closed).
...or carry out final disposition first and follow up with a memorial service after.
Public Health & Safety quotes from https://www.greenburialcouncil.org/science_green_burial.html
What experts say about the risk of infection from dead bodies:
“…concern that dead bodies are infectious can be considered a 'natural' reaction by persons wanting to protect themselves from disease" although "the risk that bodies (that died in a natural disaster) pose for the public is extremely small." —Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)
“Transmission of infection requires the presence of an infectious agent, exposure to that agent, and a susceptible host... The human body is host to many organisms, only some of which are pathogenic. When the body dies, the environment in which pathogens live can no longer sustain them. Microorganisms involved in the decay process (putrefaction) are not pathogenic. …Infectious hazards for individuals who routinely handle cadavers include: -tuberculosis, -group A streptococcal infection, -gastroenteritis, -transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease), -hepatitis B, -hepatitis C, -HIV infection, and possibly -meningitis and -septicemia (especially meningococcal).” —PAHO
“Historically, epidemics resulting in mass casualties have only occurred from a few diseases, including plague, cholera, typhoid, tuberculosis, anthrax, and smallpox…such infections are no more likely to be present in disaster victims than in the general population. Furthermore, although some of these diseases are highly contagious, their causative agents are unable to survive long in the human body following death... It is therefore unlikely that such epidemics will result from contact with a cadaver. Indeed, survivors present a much more important reservoir for disease…” —World Health Organization (WHO)
“Dead or decayed human bodies do not generally create a serious health hazard, unless they are polluting sources of drinking water with fecal matter, or are infected with plague or typhus, in which case they may be infested with the fleas or lice that spread these diseases. In most smaller or less acute emergency situations therefore, families may carry out all the necessary activities following a death...” —WHO, regarding mass burials in emergencies
“…the mere presence of a dead body without regard to its embalmed status and one that is not leaking blood from an open wound or perforation, does not pose an increased [health] risk of infectious disease transmission for the person who might handle that body or review it in a private setting. Once a human dies, infectious agents that would be of any concern, including those on the individual’s skin or internal organs, is greatly diminished…there simply is no measurable risk of that body transmitting an infectious disease agent…” —Dr. Michael Osterholm, Center for Infectious Disease Policy and Research (CID)
The average dead body has been proven to be without risk to public health when cared for properly and in a reasonable amount of time. However, the fear of health risks associated with dead bodies under extreme conditions is not without merit. Ebola and Creutzfeldt-Jakob are two dangerous conditions that even funeral directors have been afraid to deal with because it can live on surgical instruments that have even been sterilized!