Determine How You Wish Your Body Cared for After Death

How a body is cared for after death is a decision to make based on philosophy, traditions and values as well as finances and what is practical. The technical funeral and medical term for caring for the deceased is “disposition of the body” and the list includes medical donations of either the body or of the organs, burial with or without embalming, and cremation.

Connecticut law (General Statutes Section 7-69) states that “a licensed embalmer or funeral director licensed by the department…shall remove the body.” So, be prepared that no matter what choice you make, a funeral director must be involved in the initial transportation of the body, and usually much more.  


Body Donation to a Medical School for education and research is an altruistic choice for it is a gift to medical training and future patients; it also has no cost, since the school provides all the needed transportation (by a licensed embalmer) and an ultimate cremation with a memorial service for students. Bodies are needed for anatomy classes and special research projects and they are treated with great respect and honor.

Family and friends may plan their own memorial service at a time and place that they choose.

Medical school conditions for acceptance vary but generally include: no autopsy, no contagious illness, no amputation, major surgery, or mutilation, no Alzheimer’s disease, normal weight.

Death need not occur in a hospital, but may occur at any place; the medical school should be notified promptly of the death

Donation forms are available through the medical school; FCAofCT has forms for Yale and UConn available for members.

Organ, Tissue, Eye Donation is another altruistic choice and a gift of life to patients who are struggling with debilitating conditions. The need for healthy organs is ongoing and pressing. Everyone is urged to sign-up in advance for this type of donation, but a donation can also be made at death. Death at a hospital is a usual requirement since the donated organs must be immediately removed (“harvested”).

Donors and family should make their own plans for burial or cremation after the surgery to remove the donated organs.

Donation forms are available from FCAofCT has forms for members.


Full-Service Burial with Embalming, termed “traditional burial” by the funeral establishment, although hardly traditional in Europe or even the United States. (Embalming began here during the Civil War temporarily to preserve the bodies of killed Union Soldiers when they were shipped back home. Later it was touted as a way to preserve the body indefinitely, but preservation is short-term, at best.)

Embalming is a physically invasive process using highly toxic chemicals to give a body the appearance of quiet repose. Funeral directors often consider embalming protective of public health and essential for honoring the dead and accepting death. Most funeral home policies require embalming for a viewing/wake and funeral.

It is the most expensive method of body disposition and you will receive an itemized bill, ala carte, for each service and purchase. Most people choosing embalming are encouraged to have several services honoring the deceased: a funeral, a viewing before the funeral, and a grave side service at burial. There is also the custom of honoring the deceased by purchasing a grand casket and vault.

Remember. you have the right to purchase a casket and outer container elsewhere.

Cemetery costs include the plot, opening and closing the grave, any chairs or tent for graveside service.

Direct Burial without embalming is the less expensive method of burial. It actually is the old time, traditional method of burial in Europe and the early United States and it remains the burial of choice for the orthodox Jewish and Muslim religions. It is regaining acceptance among other groups because of its lower costs, simplicity, avoidance of toxic formaldehyde and intrusive procedures. 

You will receive a flat fee bill which covers transportation to the funeral home and to the cemetery and the professional fee, and varies only by the casket cost. (Here, the least expensive option is to provide your own casket, the next is to purchase a “minimum” casket (usually made of light steel) from the funeral home, and the third includes the cost of the selected funeral home casket.) (This is one of the few places where the price list explicitly notes that one can provide your own casket, either making it or purchasing it elsewhere.)

Since funeral home “policy” (not federal or state law) prevents a body that is not embalmed to have a funeral, funeral homes will only offer a memorial service without the body present; charges for a graveside service are unclear. However, a memorial service can be arranged by family and friends at a time that is convenient and a place that is appropriate – house of worship, home, library, park, firehouse, union hall. (Since most people do not hang out at the funeral home, another venue may be more apt.)

Additional costs are for an outer burial container, either a vault or concrete grave -liner, should the cemetery require for easy grounds keeping, and the cemetery cost of plot, opening and closing the grave.


Cremation is now the preferred consumer choice for caring for the body after death, accounting for 60% of body dispositions. The basic reason is its low cost compared to a Full-Service Burial, the elimination of embalming toxins, and greater ecological benefits. Once scorned by the funeral industry, cremation has become a part of most funeral homes and has also generated a number of specialized cremation services.

Connecticut has two specific requirements for cremation, ostensibly to detect foul play: 1) a mandatory 48 hour wait at the funeral establishment before cremation (a free holding period) and 2) a mandatory review by a medical examiner, arranged by the funeral home and with added fee.

As with Direct Burial, the cost of cremation is presented as a flat fee covering much of the work, with three price options, depending on whether the container for cremation is provided by the purchaser (rigid bottom and flammable), a minimum container (heavy cardboard), or a burnable coffin.

Presently, due to different interpretations of FTC regulations and funeral policy, it is wise to ask in any funeral conference if all the costs have been included in the discussion, including the actual crematory costs, the container for cremation, medical examiner’s fee, transportation.

Ashes, or cremains in funeral talk, may be mailed or picked up at the funeral establishment; The funeral establishment container for the ashes is suitable for handling, mailing, and burial or scattering. Some may wish to purchase an urn, others to use a vase, jar, or box that belonged to the deceased.

Ashes may be buried in a cemetery plot, scattered at sea, made into coral reefs, (or jewelry); some will share the ashes among family members, others will take the ashes to be dispersed in a favorite spot. (One woman reports quietly scattering some of her grandmother’s ashes at her favorite Thrift store.)

At present, Connecticut does not have any establishments using new cremation methods, either by wood chips and leaves or by water and lye, to decompose the body.

Revised 4/17/2024