The perception of many is that donating your body to science is easy and can be done with no cost or minimal effort by the survivor(s)…but au contraire! The path to body donation is extensive and requires considerable planning, including registration and crystal-clear communication between all involved BEFORE death occurs. This is yet another reason why preplanning your funeral, and making your wishes known, is so important.

Let us walk you through a few steps on what it truly means to donate your body to science.

Donating your body to science is a great way to help others after your life has ended.  Donors come from all walks of life, and many doctors and health care providers have even donated their bodies to anatomy labs, as they appreciate what a profound effect other donors had on their medical education.  Those who suffer from chronic illness sometimes donate their bodies in an effort to help the medical industry study and combat their specific illness.

While there are countless noble reasons to donate your body to science, there are numerous factors to consider upfront:

1. To become a donor, the person donating their body must REGISTER IN ADVANCE. As an example, following is a link for the body donation program at UW Madison:

https://www.med.wisc.edu/body-donation/requirements/

2. Many times, a family member makes an attempt to donate a loved one’s body to science after the loved one has passed away.  Most of the time, arrangements are needed to be made BEFORE the death of the perspective donor and can ONLY be made by the donor themselves. 

3. Organ donation IS NOT the same as whole-body donation.  The choice to be an organ donor cannot be amended to that of a whole-body doner after death has occurred.

4. KNOW THE DIFFERENCE – Donating your body to “science” can have many meanings.  There exists for-profit businesses that sell organs, as well as medical schools that will use a donated body or organs strictly for educational purposes.  If your desire is to donate strictly for educational and medical advancement reasons, you should contact a nearby medical school and register to donate to that specific school. Many medical schools will also conduct funeral services, burial and/or cremation after your body has been used for learning.  

Keep in mind that due to changes in a person’s health over time, the decision to accept or decline a body will be made at the time of death by the organization with which you are registered and not when the donor signs the registration form. Registration does NOT constitute acceptance in advance.

The most important thing to consider is communicating you wishes BEFORE death occurs and clearly communicating with your family AND your chosen funeral home so that, together, they can coordinate the proper resources which will result in a successful donation of your body. Please feel free to contact us and we will help you walk through this and other options for preplanning your end-of-life arrangements.