How to Donate Your Body to Science

While most people do not consider donating their body to science, it does provide some benefit to those who choose this option. Donating your body to science is a way to help medicine advance while also saving money on your end of life arrangements.

Donating your body to research satisfies a need for human cadavers for various types of research and study and this is an option for which relatively few people volunteer themselves. There are an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 donations each year in the U.S. In many cases, the organizations who receive your body will return it in cremated form to your family once their research or study on it has concluded. There are instances when a body is not suitable for this option.


Who may donate a body to science?

When figuring out how to donate your body to science, there are guidelines for which bodies are acceptable and those that are not. Typically, all types of people may have bodies which are suitable for donation. Because of the vast array of conditions and illnesses under study, age has very little to do with anatomical donation. Furthermore, it is often misunderstood that having some illness or disease may disqualify you from donating your body. This is simply untrue. Another myth associated with donating your body to science is that things such piercings and tattoos may also disqualify you. This, again, is not the case.

However, there are some instances that may disqualify you from anatomical donation, and these can often prove more common that one might think. Bodies that have been badly damaged, such as those involved in serious car accidents can be denied acceptance into a research program. Also, those people who were morbidly obese at the time of their passing may also be disqualified from donating their body to research as well. Organ donors are another group of people ineligible for body donations.

What does donating your body to science include?

An anatomical donation can provide important research opportunities and/or valuable practice for medical students needing training for surgical procedures. Apart from the obvious altruistic reasons for donating your body to science, there are some practical ones as well that are worthy of consideration, especially for individuals who do not relish the notion of spending many thousands of dollars on their end of life arrangements. The median cost of a funeral today lies somewhere between $6,000 and $9,000 depending on a variety of factors.

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By donating your body to research you eliminate most or all of those costs. In fact, the organization receiving your remains will typically pay for the transportation, but will also pay for cremation services and then return your cremated remains to your family once their study and/or use has concluded. This may take as long as a year or two, however. However, if you are trying to donate to a specific hospital, medical school or organization and your location is too far away meaning there would be significant transportation costs, they may refuse donation and refer you to an alternate organization closer to you. Donating your body for medical research also does not typically include any coverage for funeral expenses. You may conduct any funeral rites you wish upon the event of your death, but the receiving organization will not assist with any related costs you may incur.

Also, it is very important to note that federal laws prohibit the purchase of human cadavers. Donating your body to science is just that, a donation. Your family will not receive any monetary compensation of any kind. Lastly, organizations that receive donated bodies do not honor requests. That is to say you may not ask for your body, or the body of a loved one, to be used in a specific way or for a specific purpose. When you donate a body to science the receiving organization has complete discretion on how it is to be used without any input from the donors or their family regardless of any requests that may be made.

How to Donate Your Body to Science

To donate your body to science you must find organizations willing to accept whole-body tissue donations in accordance with the law. A good place to start when searching out the one you most wish to help is by contacting the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB). The AATB can often help direct you to the schools, teaching hospitals, and research institutions nearest you that accept whole-body tissue donations for research purposes. Individuals wishing to donate their body to research may pledge to do so at any point in their life and make those arrangements well ahead of time, which is often encouraged by the AATB or other institutions that receive whole-body tissue donations.

To find out where to donate your body to science, you may contact other organizations such as the University of Florida, which maintains a complete listing of all the whole-body tissue donation programs which currently accept the donation of deceased human cadavers throughout the United States. Aside from medical schools, certain other organizations may also help you find a suitable place to donate your body to research, and these include places like BioGift, Science Care, and Anatomy Gifts Registry.

Once you locate an organization, university medical program, or research institution with which you wish to work, contact them directly for information on how to go about donating your body for research once you pass away. They will respond with literature outlining the process you must follow in order for the donation to take place upon your death.

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