The process of donating a whole body for medical research

Why choose body donation?

A whole body donation can provide a compassionate and humane possible choice for a funeral.  Although full-body donation is not as commonly known as organ donation, it presents an opportunity to donate a greater gift to the future of humankind. 

A body donation to science provides a vital learning mode for surgeons, enabling them to develop new techniques or discover new life-saving procedures.  Anatomical body donation also supports medical education, the research, and development of new surgical techniques well as emergency medical skills.

An anatomical donation allows a research institution to study new ways to understand and fight serious diseases.   Full body donation can support the progress of research in fields such as cancer treatment, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. 

An anatomical body donation to science is often attributed to an unfair stigma. However, the process of an anatomical full-body gift is not much different from that of a mortician for a standard funeral. 

What differs is that an anatomical body donation facilities the collection of viable tissues and specimens for important scientific study before the remains are cremated.  The cremated remains can then be returned to the family if this is their wish. 

The timescale for this will vary dependent on the institution selected. For more information on Body Donation, refer to the article ‘Donating a body to science.’

Terms and acceptance onto a whole body donation program

If you or a loved one is considering cremation as an alternative to a traditional funeral, you could consider making an anatomical gift.   Only the legal next-of-kin(s) of the deceased can provide the necessary consent for donation if the donor did not provide it to the specific accepting program prior to death.  Individuals may request a consent form and will be supplied with information about policies and procedures that will take place after the potential donor is deceased. 

Body donation is not regulated through licensure and inspection by the federal government and most states. The legal right for an individual to choose body donation is governed by the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, which most states have largely adopted. Laws relating to the transportation and disposition of human bodies apply.

Several organizations provide a free cremation to those who make a full body donation to science. Making an anatomical gift is a final act of caring and leaves a legacy of hope for the future.  Many medical and research institutes accept whole-body donations. You need to check the specific requirements and terms, as these differ according to each institute.

A donation can be a time-critical decision, and requirements for accepting an anatomical donation can vary between institutions and organizations. Therefore, it is recommended that you conduct some research and preferably pre-register to donate. 

This does not guarantee that the donation will be accepted at the time of death but does ensure that you are fully versant with the terms associated with making your donation. 

For example, some institutions require that the donor has registered at least 30 days before a death does occur.  Other institutions will accept at the time of death. Other criteria that can rule out acceptance are certain communicable diseases, severe obesity, and trauma.

It is always wise to have alternative disposition arrangements ready in case the donation cannot be accepted at the time of death.

Visit Low Cost or Free Cremation to find out more about locating a local low-cost direct cremation provider.


The Body Donation Process, Why Donate?

Written by

Sara is the Editor in Chief for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death care industry in the US for the last 15 years.