It’s not safe for pacemakers to go into cremation chambers. The extreme heat can cause them to explode, posing a serious risk to the crematorium workers, and the remains of the person who’s died.
Cremation chambers can reach 1000 degrees celsius
Cremation is a safe and long-established process. Removing pacemakers as well as watches and jewellery helps to keep it safe.
Pacemakers and watches are powered by batteries, which contain gas. Depending on the age of the pacemaker, these gases could be hydrogen, iodine, or lithium. Some older pacemakers are powered by zinc oxide, nickel cadmium, and plutonium.
These gases are explosive. Despite the small size of the batteries, they can cause major damage to the walls and door of the crematorium chamber, and put crematorium staff at risk.
A trained mortician will remove the pacemaker
Some people are surprised that the hospital does not remove the pacemaker. A trained mortician or undertaker will surgically remove the pacemaker at the morgue or crematorium, with care and respect to the person who’s died.
Removing the pacemaker is a simple procedure that you can read about below. If you’d rather skip the details, jump to you can choose to donate the pacemaker.
The removal explained in depth
When removing a pacemaker, the mortician or undertaker makes a small incision over the pacemaker. Pacemakers are small - about half the size of the palm of our hands - so the incision is not very big. Two sutures (or stitches) are usually in place to secure the pacemaker. The mortician will cut the stitches, and remove the pacemaker.
The mortician then makes a few small stitches to close the incision back up.
Doctors first started using pacemakers around 70 years ago
Pacemakers have been helping to regulate peoples’ heartbeats since their invention in the 1950s. They send electrical pulses to your heart to make sure it’s not beating too quickly or too slowly.
You can choose to donate the pacemaker
If you’re the closest relative to the person who’s died, you can ask for the pacemaker to be donated. Often, they can be repurposed and used to help someone else. Either way, the crematorium will take care of the pacemaker for you, unless you specifically ask to keep it. If a person has chosen burial, the mortician will not remove the pacemaker.
Questions about funerals and cremation are natural
If you’re organising or attending the cremation or funeral of a loved one, you might want to know more about the process. This guide explains how to arrange a funeral.
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