The Basics when it comes to Body Donation
It’s always smart to do some research before making any major decisions or life changes. You may be asking what body donation actually entails, or how it’s different from organ donation, so I’ve made a quick list to cover the basics if you’re beginning to think about gifting your body to researchers.
Decide which organization is best for you:
Before donating, keep in mind that there are multiple institutions accepting body donations. There are universities, non-profits, private companies, hospitals, etc. First, make sure the agency is accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB), because with the accreditation comes the assurance that your remains will be handled in accordance with medical standards.
Also, since this is a donation, make sure the organization you have chosen does not ask you to pay for expenses. For many people, donation is not only a good option because their body will be contributing to society after they die, but it also eliminates traditional funeral expenses. It is best to find somewhere that provides both transportation and cremation costs at no charge to your family.
Keep your Family in the Loop:
More often than not, a person’s wishes are respected after they die, but remember, it is ultimately up to your family how they decide to mourn your passing. Without proper discussion on your part, they might not understand your motivation and decide on a traditional funeral instead. Since time of death is always sudden, even when expected, plan to tell your family in advance. Consent papers and cremation authorization forms need to be filled out. This can seem heavy, but talking about death or planning for death will not make you dead. This is best done when you have ample time left in life, in complete control of your faculties, and able to perform all of your ADLs.
Your family may be taken aback by your decision, so it’s best to study all the options and provide your family with the best possible answers to the questions they are sure to have. Also, in terms of receiving your remains, let your family know that full bodies are kept longer than bodies where only the organs have been removed. Once they receive your ashes, they can still hold a memorial service for you and give you a funeral if they choose to.
Organ Donation vs. Body Donation:
If you decide to donate your whole body, depending on your physical state at the time of death, your organs may go with you rather than be passed on to someone in need. Dying as an older person sometimes means degenerated organs, cancerous organs, or otherwise weakened body parts which aren’t useful as transplants. If the body is in a weakened state, it will be used for student training, forensic research, disease prevention, or other forms of testing where the human body is the best medium for research. If your organs are in good, working order at the time of death, then there is a chance your organs will be given to someone before your body is passed on to research.
This is why it’s of utmost important to make these decisions when you’re healthy; you never know when it’s time to go. If you have a rare disease or cancer then your body can be extremely beneficial if donated. There are many testimonials where people have been granted some peace in knowing they will not die in vain because their body will help fight that same cancer.
After coming to an informed resolution, get everything in writing and appropriately observed or notarized. Store the paperwork with your will so it’s easily accessible at the time of death. This will prevent misunderstandings or extra charges after your passing. Most importantly, determine that everything is completely understood by your family members. It will be comforting for them knowing exactly how your body will be cared for.