How does one legally move a non-embalmed body?

Lizentwoya asked...

I am Orthodox Christian. When I die, my priest wants to drive my body from here in Utah to a convent in Arizona for burial. The funeral director says I must be embalmed. We do not believe in embalming. How do we manage this legally?

Expert Answer

Rebekah Peoples, CFSP, CPC, Is a licensed funeral director and embalmer. She is passionate about serving others and believes that giving clients honest, accurate information empowers them to create tributes and services that are meaningful and appropriate.

You are to be commended for a couple of things in this issue "“ first, that you are respecting your beliefs and second, that you want to incorporate them in accordance with the law.

There are a couple of options, beginning with contacting a couple of other funeral directors! Even though states and funeral homes have laws and policies (respectively) concerning embalming, they do have allowances for religious beliefs. If the trip is made shortly after death occurs and if the distance is short, for example, just a couple of hours, no special treatment of the body should be necessary. If however, you take the distance between Salt Lake City to Phoenix, which is about ten hours, plus allow for some time from the time the death to the time it will be transported and buried, there is a significant amount of time involved.

In any case, these are respectful alternatives to embalming: 1) The body can be held under refrigeration's cooler temperatures from the time of death until the time of the transfer to Arizona. Depending on the length of time that it will be until the burial takes place, it may be necessary to lower the temperatures of that environment to a point where the body is almost frozen. 2) Another alternative frequently used by funeral directors when moving an unembalmed body for burial some distance away, is to place pieces of wrapped dry ice in the casket with the body.

A call to the Department of Health in Utah confirmed that embalming is not required and that these options are acceptable alternatives. I strongly suggest that you contact a few other funeral homes, explain your beliefs and desire for burial in Arizona, and see what alternatives they offer. Your wishes are not outlandish or unreasonable and a reputable caring funeral director will find a way to honor your beliefs and work with you to make it happen.