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How to Donate a Body to Science

When it comes time to plan for the final disposition of a loved one’s body after death, donation to science may be a good option, depending on your values. Donating your body to science is a way to help advance medical knowledge and research. There are a number of benefits to donating your body to science, including contributing to scientific research and helping future generations. The cost of donating a body to science is also relatively low (and often free), making it a vastly more affordable option than traditional burial or cremation.

Why you should consider a body donation to science

There are a handful of great reasons why a body donation to medical schools and body donation after death are valuable alternatives to traditional methods of disposition. Here are some reasons why you should consider donating your body to science:

  • Donating a body to science saves lives in many different ways. Donating a body to a medical program helps medical students gain invaluable information on the human body, anatomy, and physiology. Without donated bodies, it wouldn't be possible for students to gain this experience. Whole body donations help students practice surgical training, implantation, study diseases and their impact on the body, and help physicians and researchers understand conditions we don't fully know the answer to yet.
  • Whole body donation programs help donors pay it forward to their community. If the decedent is someone who has an interest in giving back to their community, donating a body to science is one of the greatest gifts they can give.
  • Another reason why you should donate your body to science is the impact it has on not only humans, but animals. Donating a body to science prevents animals from being practiced on or harmed in place of surgeons and medical practitioners being able to practice on human body donations.
  • Donating your body to science can not only help the broader community, but can help your family by skipping over the costs associated with burial or cremation. Donating a body to science is typically free for the donor and the family.

Why you should not donate your body to science

One of the main disadvantages of donating your body to science is that your family will not be able to hold a viewing or a service where your body is present. Additionally, most body donation programs will cremate the body after it is no longer being used. If you're strictly against cremation, body donation is likely not a method of disposition you should pursue.

If you're uncomfortable with your body being used for medical research and for students studying medicine, body donation is likely not the method of disposition you should pursue.

Additionally, medical schools that accept body donations and other body donor programs may choose to deny a body donation based on certain criteria. For example, the Mayo Clinic will reject body donations if they're not appropriate for anatomical study, if the body was embalmed, or the donor has infectious diseases such as HIV or hepatitis C. Here's a full list of why a body donation may be denied, at least for the Mayo Clinic.

Where do I find body donation programs?

You can easily locate a body donation program on Ever Loved by viewing our database of whole body donation programs. Simply select your location to view body donation programs near you. Ever Loved's database also includes results for national programs, such as ScienceCare.

Find a program

What is the body donation process?

While each body donation program may have slightly different steps, here's the general process when it comes to body donation:

  1. The prospective donor signs a consent form to have their body donated to science. In some cases, the next of kin can sign the consent form to donate the body after someone passes, depending on the organization.
  2. The staff at the hospital, hospice, or medical facility where the decedent passed notifies the body donation program of the death.
  3. The body donation program contacts the next of kin to confirm the body donation.
  4. Transportation to the program is arranged by the program and medical staff.
  5. The body donation program uses the body for medical research or training, depending on their program. This process can typically take around 12-15 months.
  6. The body donation program cremates the remains and returns these to the family. It's important to note that each body donation program will have their own process, forms, and steps that are taken. Some programs may not return the cremains to the family at the end of the process while others do, so you'll need to check with the program you're interested in about their process.

Can you do a whole body donation for money?

You do not receive money for donating a body to science. This is against both Federal laws and most State laws.

How do I donate my body to science?

The process to donate your body to science can be quite simple. Here are the steps you'll want to take:

  1. Identify the body donation program you'd like to donate your body to.
  2. Read through their requirements and criteria. (Most programs have lenient criteria, but you'll want to make sure you meet their requirements before making arrangements.)
  3. Sign the consent form or join the organization's registry.
  4. At the time of death, the organization will be notified and will make arrangements on your behalf.

If you’ve decided you’d like to donate a loved one’s body to science, you can browse Ever Loved’s body donation database to get started with identifying your top body donation organizations.

Find a program

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Last updated November 23, 2022
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