Another way of avoiding some of the rituals and costs of a traditional funeral is for
the decedent to donate some or all of her or his body to a medical school or similar
institution for the purpose of instruction in anatomy, or for similar purposes. Students
of medicine and osteopathy frequently study anatomy from donated cadavers; they
are also useful in forensic research.
Making an anatomical gift is a separate transaction from being an organ donor, in
which any useful organs are removed from the un-embalmed cadaver for medical
transplant. Under a Uniform Act in force in most jurisdictions of the United States,
being an organ donor is a simple process that can often be accomplished when a
driver's license is renewed.
There are some medical conditions, such as amputations, or various surgeries , that
can make the cadaver unsuitable for these purposes. Conversely, the bodies of
people who had certain medical conditions are useful for research into those
conditions. All U.S. medical schools rely on the generosity of "anatomical donors" for
the teaching of anatomy.
Typically the remains are cremated once the students have completed their anatomy
classes, and many medical schools now hold a memorial service at that time as well.
Because it is important for the medical school to start preservation as soon after
death as possible, a memorial service is most appropriate for those planning on body
donation. Alternative plans for body disposition should be discussed with your
family. A few schools take care of disposition regardless of condition at the time of
death, in fulfillment of their contract with a donor. Most medical schools, however,
follow guidelines in the acceptance of a body. If death occurs at the time of surgery,
for example, the body would not be accepted for study. Certain diseases, as well as
obesity, make a body unsuitable. Some medical schools may not have an immediate
need and have no provision for storage or for sharing with another university.
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by Karen Jones
This topic focuses on all subjects, but not
limited to, topics dealing with anatomical
gifts ("Donating your body to science").
Explanation of donations, and what to
consider about funeral plans before or
after. It also includes sections about travel
concerns and more.
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|Donations of Organs and the Body to Science
Death provides many of us with a
one-time chance to make a valuable
gift to humanity. All major religions
approve of body and organ donation
for medical and dental teaching,
research, and transplants. According to
public opinion polls, most people believe
that such donations are desirable.
With the advances in medical science in the last decade, organ transplants have
become fairly common. Organ donation at a time of death is a gift of life or sight to
the recipient. Circumstances surrounding death may limit this option, yet the corneas
of even elderly donors will be grateful accepted. If your wish is to aid the living with
an organ donation, make sure your next of kin and your physician know your
preference. This intent should be noted on any medical or hospital records, too. A
body from which organs have been removed will not be accepted for medical study.
Medical schools have an ongoing need of bodies for teaching and research. The need
may be especially urgent at osteopathic and chiropractic schools. No medical school
buys bodies, but there is usually little or no expense for the family when death
occurs. Therefore, if you live in an area where low-cost funeral options do not exist,
body donation may be an economical as well as thoughtful and generous choice.
Most medical schools pay for nearby transportation as well as embalming and final
disposition. The School may have a contract with a particular firm for transporting
bodies, so it is important to inquire about the specific arrangements to be used at the
time of death in order to avoid added costs. After medical study, the body is usually
cremated, with burial or scattering in a university plot. Often the cremains or remains
can be returned to the family for burial within a year or two. This request should be
made known at the time of donation. Some medical schools require that a donor
register before death. However, in many cases, next of kin may make the bequest
without prior arrangement.
|Donations of the Body to Science
There will be special considerations if death occurs while you are traveling and you
planned on body donation. If you are a great distance from the medical school of
your choice, should your family bear the cost of transporting your body there, or
may the nearest university be contacted? The need for cadavers in some foreign
countries is even greater than in the U.S. For example, in Argentina 200 medical
students must share a cadaver. A private individual's body may be shipped to another
country if placed in a hermetically sealed container. If death were to occur abroad,
do you wish your survivors to inquire about the local need for bodies or organs to
fulfill the intent of your anatomical bequest? Be sure to note your preference on the
Uniform Donor Card you carry.
|Planning a Service for a Bequeathed Body
|Plans for Donation if Traveling