Why Take Chemistry for Mortuary Science? Part 1

mortuary science

Why take chemistry for a degree in Mortuary Science? I have a student who is interested in going into mortuary science. I did a little research to learn more about this field in order to point out particular places where my course is important to her chosen career. I was not surprised to see that there is a great deal of chemistry in this field. This essay is primarily written for the student who is interested in this field and to faculty who may be guiding students in their career path. I will add a second (and possibly a third) essay to discuss the chemistry more in depth.

For those of you who are not aware that many colleges offer a chemistry course or a series for "Allied Health majors", which takes some general chemistry concepts and just enough organic chemistry to introduce the biochemistry that students will use in their Anatomy and Physiology and their Microbiology courses. This may be a one semester course, or a year-long series designed for non-science majors entering the fields of nursing, dental hygiene, two year lab tech programs and other technical programs such as radiology tech, vet tech and microelectronics tech. Too many of these programs only require one term of chemistry which of course students love, but in my opinion, taking the whole series to get the introduction into the super fun biochemistry of life concepts is greatly beneficial to all students in these fields.

The student entering the field of mortuary science will benefit from having a compassionate personality. In the Allied Health Chemistry course series, many students are going into health fields such as nursing and dental hygiene because they are compassionate individual who are passionate about helping others. Mortuary science students will find good company in their classmates for this series.

The student will need to be attentive to detail. I wish I had a dollar for every time I shared this advice while grading lab reports. Attention to detail is crucial in science. 

The student will learn a great deal about federal, state and local regulations, which of course is something any working chemist will have to do. Although the regulations are different, the process and rigor of learning and becoming familiar with regulations is not much different from learning to follow a list of rules for naming compounds using the IUPAC method.

The student will become familiar with the science and the business aspect of the career. I usually advise my students to take at least one business course while an undergraduate. They will undoubtedly become managers and leaders after several years of practice in their fields. 

Through lecture and labs, students will learn the theory and practice of embalming. We teach lecture and labs for student to learn theory and get experience with the tools of chemistry. Students will study the physical and chemical changes in the body after death. They will learn to work with the equipment and chemicals used in embalming, along with dealing with the waste. We carefully discuss the differences between physical and chemical changes in all chemistry courses. In addition students will take anatomy and microbiology, for which chemistry is often a required support course (or should be).

Some mortuary facilities offer DNA typing and banking. Completing a full course of allied health chemistry in which some biochemistry is covered including studying DNA would beneficial to someone who might make their career in mortuary science. DNA testing can relate biological ties to paternity, relatives, and genetic family history that may be useful in the unusual heritage claim for estate issues and may be beneficial in health and disease diagnosis to assess a predisposition to certain diseases among descendants. When students understand the background of DNA this will certainly help them to more confidently the share results with families.

Mortuary science provides an important community service, certainly no less than the nurses and doctors that have taken our classes. It takes a strong person to take on the responsibility of dealing with deceased, and the grieving families but it is a very rewarding field.

In Part 2, I will discuss the embalming process in more detail. This may be unappealing to some, as I will be graphically describing this process. And I will include a little history and discuss the chemicals used. I also have some terrific further reading suggestions.