Hmm, so, you're getting ready to leave this world. Rather than be buried/cremated/whatever, why not consider donating your whole body to science?

Medical schools (in the States) are hurting for whole body donations. In fact, some are forced to share bodies between themselves and may have upward of five students practicing their future trade on one cadaver. This limits the amount of practical research time each student has to learn his/her prospective trade.

What will my body be used for?

Usually students learn the basics of anatomy, some surgical techniques, orthopedics, ophthalmology, cardiology, neurology and countless other life saving practices.

So what should I consider?

A lot of things. First of all, it doesn’t matter what the reason is for your decision. Whether your doing it in the name of science or for reasons such as no relatives/affordability of a funeral, etc, etc, etc, keep in mind that each medical program has their own admission standards. In general, the two most important items to consider are:

1) At present, no medical schools or anatomical boards in the country are allowed buy your body from your family or your estate. That means you can forget about anybody profiting from your death, whether you want them to or not

2) Age isn’t important. If your under 18 you’ll need a parent/guardian permission in order for your body to be used for scientific purposes. As a matter of fact, most bodies are somewhere in the 80’s before the students get their hands on them. It’s the physical condition of the body, not the age that matters.

Also keep in mind that organ donor and whole body donation are two different animals. Usually, if you’ve made a decision to donate your organs, your body will be rejected. One exception is the donation of your cornea. There’s a guide out there called the “Whole Body Donation Guide” that is pretty comprehensive in detailing reasons for which bodies are accepted/rejected.

How ‘bout any religious considerations

Well, if it was up to me I’d say let your conscience be your guide but if you need some affirmation, body donation are endorsed by Protestant, Catholic and members of reformed Jewish affiliations. (Any noders out there who are familiar with other religions, please feel free to chime in)

What if my family says “no”?

In most cases, too bad. The contract you sign with the medical institution of your choice is considered, for the most part, binding. Some schools will defer to the wishes of the family

If I haven’t stated my wishes, can my next of kin donate my body?

For the most part, yup. Some schools however have a body donation program that states that you must be enrolled prior to your demise in order to be considered

Can I still have a funeral?

Sure, why not.

Uhm, what happens to me after they're done with my body?

Most schools will cremate and scatter your remains or, if you want, will return your carcass to your loved ones for final disposition. It depends on your choice and most applications for body donation cover these and similar type questions

On a personal note, I believe that whole body donation and organ donor programs are both noble causes and encourage each of you out there to weigh the pros and cons of each program.