The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Thiel embalming, anyone?

Wednesday, 9 January 2013



Professor Walther Thiel, an Austrian, developed an embalming process for medical cadavers. His process requires much less formaldehyde than conventional embalming fluids and, also, produces a much more ‘lifelike’ body with none of the hardness and stiffness associated with conventional embalming. Medical people are very keen on it — those who know about it. It’s only been around since 1992 and, because the technique is described in German, it hasn’t made itself particularly well-known. 

Soft embalming is a technique which relies on a mixture of salt compounds and very low amounts of volatile formaldehyde and formalin to effect fixation of tissue with a number of unique properties. Cadavers preserved with the Thiel Method have no detectable odor, a lifelike flexibility of body parts, excellent color preservation of muscle, viscera, and vasculature, and superior antimicrobial preservation properties. [Source]

They’re using it at the University of Dundee, the first place in the UK to opt for it. They’re doing so in anticipation of EU laws restricting the use of formalin, which is reckoned a carcinogen. They are delighted by the results. 

We wonder how many embalmers are aware of Thiel embalming. In terms of presentation alone, it would seem to do a much better job than the conventional method. 

Do have a look at the video on the Univ Dundee site, which shows a Thiel-embalmed cadaver, and see for yourself how much better it is. 

If it’s safer, too, there would seem to be a strong argument for it.

But would it work as well if the embalming mixture is used in the far lower concentrations required by the funeral industry. 

What do we know? If you know anything, do tell us. 

(Apologies to born-again anti-embalmers.)



14 comments on “Thiel embalming, anyone?

  1. jonathan kilee

    Wednesday 17th June 2015 at 10:32 pm

    great people! Lets embrace scienific research for a better diagnosis

  2. Phoebe Hoare

    Thursday 10th January 2013 at 5:44 pm

    Ah, of course! Happy new year to you too Charles, and a very belated Merry Christmas!

  3. Thursday 10th January 2013 at 2:57 pm

    Mark, thank you again. That’s really useful to know about Thiel — and Genelyn.

  4. Mark Elliott & Ann.L

    Thursday 10th January 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Thiel Embalming is only for the medical cadavers and is very expensive to do and is not suitable for the funeral industry.

  5. Mark Elliott & Ann.L

    Thursday 10th January 2013 at 2:36 pm

    Genelyn has also produced an anatomical Embalming Product which is now being used in 5 universities in the UK as well as in Europe. The effect is the same is leaves the body pliable but for dissection purposes the organs remain the corrct colour which is a break through for universities. If anyone is interested or would like any further information for everyday embalming or for medical purposes please give Patricia a call at EEP Embalming products who produce this fantastic product for the funeral industry. and you can view the range etc which is great.

  6. Thursday 10th January 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Mark, thank you very much for this. Really useful.

  7. Mark Elliott & Ann.L

    Thursday 10th January 2013 at 2:23 pm

    I Embalm most days in my own funeral home and for another funeral director and I use a fantastic product called Genelyn it does not contain Methanol and therefore the deceased remain soft to the touch and remain a good colour. Traditional Embalmin Fluids sometimes cause a greying around the tissues of the face and then cosmetics need to be applied. Medical Schools etc tend to use very strong mixtures for Embalming of deceased as they wish to preserve them for at least 3 years but in the funeral industry we are looking to preserve the person up until the time of the funeral service to stop the changes that take place after death. Genelyn is a Australian product and is excellent the results are fantastic and the families are pleased when they visit the chapel of rest.

  8. Wednesday 9th January 2013 at 11:43 pm

    Not as dim as me Charles. Were you meaning me, because I’ve always considered myself a rigorous dyed in the wool anti embalming ( not anti embalmer) kind of guy. I wondered whether there were any new converts I had missed.

  9. Jed

    Wednesday 9th January 2013 at 11:06 pm

    ‘for those who want to be embalmed’…. there are a few things that my brain can’t process in there….
    the first being that to consider embalming I need to consider being dead….
    the second being the choice element inferred by ‘wanting’ to be embalmed….
    but if I’m dead….
    No, can’t do it at the moment!

    • Thursday 10th January 2013 at 11:31 am

      There are a few ageing movie stars out there who look to me as if they have opted for pre-mortem embalming. I think it is a lifestyle choice — for them as can afford it.

  10. Wednesday 9th January 2013 at 10:38 pm

    Because medical cadavers have to last much longer, they are embalmed much more thoroughly — with more chemicals.

    Happy New Year, Phoebe!

  11. Phoebe Hoare

    Wednesday 9th January 2013 at 10:16 pm

    Well Charles, I think that’s pretty cool! I’m astounded by the difference in flexibility. For those who want to be embalmed this is a great option. Just one question though; why does the concentration have to be lower for the funeral industry if it is less harmful than the normal stuff?

  12. Wednesday 9th January 2013 at 6:50 pm

    Well, I don’t know, Ru, I was acknowledging a school of thought at the same time as speaking in an ecumenical, detached sort of voice as I sit on the fence and watch the world go by in a idle birdwatcherly sort of way.

    I’m not exactly sure what your question asked. (I can be very dim.)

  13. Wednesday 9th January 2013 at 6:39 pm

    Born again anti embalmers Charles?

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