Please see our update on this topic issued on April 3, 2020: COVID-19 & Embalming – CDC Stands By its Recommendations
As you know, the CDC has issued guidance indicating that embalming confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases is safe, so long as funeral professionals take precautions such as wearing proper PPE and making every possible effort to minimize splashing and aerosolization of fluids. Recognized embalming experts have offered their suggestions for how this might be accomplished.
Recently, NFDA found alternate guidance on embalming from the World Health Organization (WHO), another recognized organization that has been on the front lines confronting COVID-19 around the globe.
While WHO’s recommendations align with CDC guidance in important areas – bodies can be buried or cremated; there is no evidence of people becoming infected from exposure to the bodies of people who died of COVID-19; and families should avoid contact (i.e., touching, kissing, etc.) the body of the decedent – it differs on two key points:
- Embalming is not recommended to avoid excessive manipulation of the body;
- Adults >60 years and immunosuppressed persons should not directly interact with the body.
We share this information from WHO in the interest of full disclosure and out of concern for your safety. We also note that WHO is a global organization and embalming standards and practices around the globe may or may not match the high safety standards to which funeral professionals in the United States adhere.
NFDA is making every effort to clarify with the CDC if embalming can be done safely and whether or not older or immune-compromised people should perform this essential task.
NFDA strongly believes that embalming and viewing the body is an important part of meaningful memorialization. However, we also recognize that the safety of funeral directors and embalmers is paramount.
We urge you to seriously weigh the risks presented by embalming COVID-19 cases with the steps you have always taken to be safe while caring for the bodies of people who have died of highly-infectious diseases. Whether you are comfortable embalming a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 victim is a personal choice; you should use your best professional judgement to determine your comfort level with embalming these individuals. NFDA hopes that funeral home owners will respect the wishes of a funeral professional who is not comfortable embalming a pandemic victim, regardless of the reason.
Should you choose to continue embalming victims of the pandemic, the CDC guidance represents the minimum precautions a funeral professional should take. You should use your best professional judgement to determine whether you should take additional precautions beyond what is recommended.
While scientists have learned a lot about COVID-19 in a relatively short period of time, there are still many unknowns and guidance is evolving based on new data. As we learn of new guidance on embalming COVID-19 pandemic victims, we will share it as quickly as we can.