Embalming A to Z: Alcoholism

Date Published: 
February, 2004
Original Author: 
Todd Van Beck
A S Turner and Sons, Decatur, Georgia
Original Publication: 
ICFM Magazine, February 2004

Deaths from alcoholism may be from causes that are either acute or chronic. In the acute cases, there has been an ingestion of sufficient alcohol to create poisoning sufficient to cause death. In deaths from chronic alcoholism, there has been a steady breaking down of the nervous system, the circulatory system and the digestive system or a complication has arisen from a combination of these conditions.

Carcinoma of the stomach, intestines or liver; stroke as a result of arteriosclerosis; jaundice; or even insanity which terminates in paralysis may be the direct or indirect result of alcoholism.

There is nothing unusual encountered in embalming these cases unless the terminal disease or complication presents specific problems, i.e., jaundice, edema, etc.

Massage thoroughly with a high-quality massage cream formulated by one of the embalming chemical companies. Cover the face and hands liberally and continue to massage throughout injection. Wash out the circulatory system with a pre-injection solution using 4 ounces of the solution to make a half-gallon solution. Half-gallon solutions do take more time, but the process helps in not over- or under-embalming the remains. Generally a low-strength fluid is recommended in sufficient volume to ensure complete distribution. (Specific concerns regarding edema and jaundice will be covered in future segments of this series.)

Alcoholism often dilates superficial capillaries. This is the reason so many people who use alcohol to excess have highly colored skin and, especially, colored patches of skin. In these highly colored areas, we may easily create desiccation or fluid burn spots unless we are careful in our massage techniques and embalming solutions. Use a gentle touch in these cases.

Thoroughly aspirate the cavities and treat with cavity chemical. Reaspiration may be necessary before casketing.