Donating your body to science has a nice ring to it, but you need to decide that’s what you’re going to do before you die, because pre-registration is a must with most medical school programs.
Cadavers are used for a range of purposes to advance medical knowledge. They can be used for disease research and treatment, surgical education of medical students, the creation and improvement of medical instrumentation, and for tissue and organ studies. One must decide if organs and tissue or the whole body will be donated, as those are two separate programs and procedures.
Most medical schools only accept whole bodies, with the exception of corneal donations, which don’t affect the rest of the body. Corneas, the clear surface at the front of the eye, help save eyesight through corneal transplants. They can be harvested at a funeral home, and the procedure will not affect the look of the body if there’s to be a viewing. Most eye bank organizations indicate cornea donors can be of any age, and even people with poor eyesight or cataracts can donate. However, there may be an upper age limit, so check with your local organization.
Physical condition of the body, not age, is the important factor in whole body donation. Most people are eligible for making donations, with the exception of those with communicable diseases such as hepatitis, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, severe obesity or edema (fluid swelling), or cadavers with decomposition, trauma or embalming.
There is no cost to donate one’s body for medical research, but if a funeral home is involved, there may be some transportation fees. Start the registration process by contacting the medical school to which you wish to donate. Bear in mind, not all schools may have room for cadaver donations at the time of death. As an alternative, look for accredited medical research and education programs that facilitate full body donations to science at no cost to the family through the American Association for Tissue Banks, www.AATB.org.
For funeral planning, remember that a memorial service is held when there is no body present.