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How Does Whole Body Donation Work?

Donating your body to science can be a selfless act that allows you to help others, even after your death. Medical schools and scientific programs rely on the generous gift of body donation to fuel medical research and help support medical students. Here's what to know about donating a body to science after death.

What is whole body donation?

Whole body donation is the act of giving your body to science for medical research and education. This can be done through a body donation program at a medical school or research facility and is most often free to the family or individual who is donating the body.

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Why would you donate your body to science?

There are many reasons why someone might choose to donate their body to science. Some people do it for altruistic reasons, wanting to help further medical research or help with medical education. Others may do it because they have a specific condition that they want to help others learn about. Still others may choose to donate their body for financial reasons.

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How much does body donation cost?

In most cases, body donation is free. However, it's important to double check with your chosen program regarding this to ensure there are no hidden fees or costs. Body donation can be a great choice for families struggling to cover the enormous cost of funeral expenses. If your loved one had no preferences or you are researching low-cost options after a death, body donation is a generous and often free route to cremation.

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Is it possible to do a whole body donation for money?

No, it is not possible to donate your body for money. Any program that asks for money in exchange for donating your body is not legitimate and is breaking federal law.

The body donation process

The first step in donating your body to science is to research the programs that are available. You can contact medical schools or research facilities in your area to learn more about their programs.

Once you have decided on a program, you will need to fill out some paperwork. This will usually include a donor agreement form and a medical history form. You may also be asked to provide next of kin information. Some programs do not accept bodies that have died of specific causes or from those who have had specific illnesses (such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS or prion diseases).

Once the paperwork is complete, you will be given a donor card to keep with you. This card should be given to your next of kin after your death. They will then need to contact the body donation program to arrange for transport of your body.

Once your body is received by the program, it will be used for medical research or education. This could involve dissection, study of the body’s systems and illnesses, or use in medical training programs.

After the studies are complete, your body will be cremated and the ashes are often returned to the family. If getting ashes returned to the family is important, you should double check this with your chosen program, since not all body donation organizations are able to return ashes to you.

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Choosing between whole body donation programs

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a body donation program. First, you should to make sure that the program is legitimate and accredited. You can check with the Better Business Bureau or your local consumer protection agency to see if there have been any complaints filed against the program, though this is less of a risk with universities and medical schools.

You should also make sure that the program is able to meet your specific needs and requirements. For example, some programs may only accept bodies of people who have died of natural causes. Others may have age restrictions. Make sure to ask about any requirements or restrictions before you make your decision. It’s also important to go over any costs or fees associated with the donation and whether or not the ashes will be returned to you afterwards.

Finally, you can consider choosing a program that's meaningful to you in some way. Some individuals choose to donate to their local university to support researchers and students local to them. Alternatively you can consider making a donation to your alma mater or the college of someone close to you. (At the same time, the program you choose doesn't necessarily have to be one you have personal ties to. Your donation is generous and tremendously helpful to any program you choose.)

Compare programs

Ready to start looking for medical schools that accept body donations and other whole body donation programs ? Ever Loved has a database complete with donation organizations near you and national programs that you can contact if interested. Easily compare programs and get in touch with the ones that interest you.

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Last updated July 20, 2022
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