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
|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.
|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
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.
|Donation of bodies 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 inexpensive 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.
|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.
|Do you have questions or comments? You can email us directly or
choose from a variety of ways to contact The Funeral Source
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