Deathcare A.M.A. Q1: “What are the challenges of working with the obese deceased?”
Welcome to Deathcare A.M.A. (Ask Morticians Anything), where you’ll learn all about what regular people (read: non-morticians) are asking the Internet … and how their questions are being answered — accurately, hilariously, or otherwise. Our goal is to give you a different perspective on what your families and communities really want to know, but are too scared to ask.
YOUTUBE (Kari The Mortician by Kari Northey, 5 years ago) How obesity in our society affects the funeral business
TIKTOK (big_led73, March 2022) How does a really large person fit in a casket?
REDDIT (on r/fatlogic by [deleted], 9 years ago) Embalming the obese
Hey! Chub Dot Gov here! I noticed that recently this subreddit has been discussing the sizing of airplane seats, and the complications of fitting a fat person into a confined small seat. It strangely reminded me of caskets, so I decided you all might want to hear about servicing the fat in the funeral industry!
As an embalmer, I see more and more bodies coming in that are morbidly obese. That means I have to make deeper incisions, use more fluid, sew up longer autopsy scars, and strain my back to lift heavier people. The lifting is the worst part, especially if I’m in the building alone and nobody is there to help me. Some funeral homes invest in a mechanical lift, but of course, they have a weight limit. So, lifting bodies has made me pretty muscular in the arms and abdomen! Well, muscular enough for a little lady who’s 5’4″ and would rather do math than lift weights. That being said, I’ve also sustained two spinal injuries from lifting bodies. I’m in my twenties and I’ve had spinal injuries. What in the world!
A body requires about a gallon of embalming solution for every fifty pounds of weight. Each gallon contains anywhere from 2-4 bottles of chemicals. Let’s say a person is about 600 pounds. That means we need 12 gallons, containing anywhere from 24-48 bottles. This does not include the cavity fluid that we use [to] sterilize the cavities of the body. A normal-sized person requires one bottle. A larger person may require as many as 4 or 5, just to sterilize the body. We can’t use less than we need, or the body may not be properly sterilized. As a proponent of “green burials” (environmentally friendly chemicals and biodegradable materials used in [funerals]), it pains me to see this much formaldehyde being pumped into the earth.
Your average casket is built to fit your average person. Larger custom caskets can be ordered, but each inch added to the width can drive the price up exponentially. Caskets are already expensive, and wide-load caskets are almost absurdly costly. That doesn’t include the cost of a concrete vault for the coffin to be buried in, if you want one.
These large coffins are absurd. [T]he largest I’ve ever had to order was the size of a bed. I would’ve been able to fit both myself and another person of my size inside. It was like standing next to a canoe, and it cost more than a new car. I’ve heard of the families of larger people ordering that the funeral home cut off excess fat so the body will fit in a normal casket.
“All this burial stuff is too complicated,” you say? “Isn’t cremation the same for a morbidly obese person as it is for a skinnier person?” Well, sometimes, no. You’ve no doubt heard about the Austrian woman whose body was so fat it started a grease fire in a crematorium two years ago. I have a friend who is a crematorium operator, and he once had to cut up a super-morbidly obese man and cremate him in three separate parts, because he would not fit in the chamber. Crematoriums require a lot of energy to operate, as the fire has to be EXTREMELY hot in order to reduce the body to ash. Take the energy used by a normal-sized body, and multiply it by three. That’s what had to be paid by the funeral home to accommodate one very large man.
Tl;DR – funeral workers and the families of the deceased must shell out extra money and put in extra time to accommodate the obese.