Donating Your Body To Medicine When You Pass: What You Should Know

If you've ever considered donating your body to science for students or research after you pass away, you know that this is a wonderful way to support training physicians and providing tissue to fight diseases like Alzheimer's and cancer. It can also come with a wealth of questions about the process. Here are a few things you may not have realized.

What Are the Benefits of Whole Body Donation?

In addition to the altruistic benefits mentioned above, whole body donation after death has many good sides:

  • It reduces decisions about after-life care for loved ones.
  • It can make the immediate death process easier if living far away from family and friends.
  • It can save money on funeral expenses.
  • It is a viable alternative to being buried.
  • It is a way to contribute to science, even if you are too ill to donate your organs.

What About My Family?

Your family and friends will be pleased to know they can still hold a memorial or celebration of life for you, even if you donate your body to science. Depending on where you donate your body, your remains can be cremated and returned to your loved ones anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of years after you die.

Your family can still hold a ceremony for you right away. In fact, many funeral homes today are happy to arrange a memorial without a body or ashes. Using a funeral home is helpful, because it can coordinate announcements and events and offer a location to meet. It can also provide music, a place to display photos, and even grief support.

If your remains are returned after several years, your family has another opportunity to celebrate your life--this time in a less grief-stricken way. It also allows time for friends who live far away or who couldn't make the first ceremony to attend.

What Else Should You Know?

You should plan to put a lot of time into investigating where you want to donate your body. Even if your alma mater's medical school is your first thought, it may not be in line with your final wishes. Each place that takes donated human bodies has a different set of criteria that they use to determine who they accept and how the body is handled once it arrives.

Most medical schools today have web pages devoted to whole body donation, so you can learn about the process and read their FAQs. Don't rule out private research organizations either; they often have different rules for donation and many return cremated remains faster.

Some questions to ask when considering the donation process and a recipient for your body

  • Who do you need to notify of your wishes? (If it's only in your will, it may not be discovered until it's too late.)
  • Can you be an organ donor and still donate your body?
  • Can you donate your body with any medical conditions you may have? (Some places do not accept donations from people with HIV, tuberculosis or transplanted organs, for example.)
  • How will your body be transported to the donation center? (This could significantly help your family in paying funeral expenses.)
  • What kind of paperwork is required ahead of time?
  • What kind of support can the recipients offer your family during a difficult time?

Donating your body to science is one of the most noble things you can do. By providing a way for people to study both health and illness, you live on far past your years on earth in physical form. And isn't that what everyone wants when they pass away--to leave a legacy that might allow the next generation to thrive.