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How to donate your body to science. Making a cadaver donation or anatomical gift to medical or dental colleges

Updated on January 22, 2014

I was recently asked to write an article about cadaver donations. Specifically I was asked to research the hows and whys of donating your body to medical science. As I began researching the article I definitely thought that I would never consider donating my body to medical science as the idea of people poking and prodding my lifeless corpse creeped me out. But as I read more and more and educated myself about the actual process, the creepiness began to fade and I can honestly say that I am actually considering donating my remains when I pass away. If you are reading this article it's because you have an interest in creepy things or you have an interest in the donation process. Either way I hope you find this hub educational and helpful.

The Purpose of Cadaver Donations

Medical and dental colleges throughout the country rely on donated cadavers to enhance the learning experiences of their medical, nursing, and dental students. Students use the cadavers to provide hands on authentic learning opportunties they would not normally have. While there are excellent computer simulation programs available nothing takes the place of being able to work with an acutal human body. Students dissect the bodies and learn a multitude of lessons including: the size, shape, and placement of organs, the texture of muscles, and the toll that certain diseases take on the human body.

Doctors routinly use parts from cadavers to replace damaged joints or ligaments in their patients. Surgeons sculpt new joints from cadaver bones and cartilage and use cadaver ligaments to replace torn ones in living individuals. Cadaver tissue is used to replace an accident victims damaged tissue as well as the damaged tissue of burn victims. Plastic surgeons routinely use cadaver heads to practice their skills and perfect techniques because the heads don't swell like a living human being giving the surgeon the ability to see the results of his work instantly.

Organizations

If you are interested in donating your body once you pass away there are organizations you can contact that will provide you with a myriad of information.

  • LifeQuest Anatomical is an organization that accepts body donations and matches the donation with the needs of medical facilities or colleges. All costs for the donation are covered by LifeQuest including transportation of the body and a final cremation. LifeQuest does not accept the bodies of individuals who have died due to extreme trauma, suicide, have HIV, Aids or Hepatitis.
  • Biogiftis another organization that accepts body donations for the purpose of supplying medical facilities with organs and tissue samples to use for study and research. Biogift does not conduct medical research they process,store, and distribute organ and tissue samples to research institutes and educational facilities around the country. It is not necessary to preregister with Biogift-your next of kin can consent to the donation for you.
  • If you are interested in donating your body directly to a medical college you can contact your state's Medical Board for a list of eligible institutions. Contact the institutions and request a donation package that includes their requirements as well as their donation process.

The Donation Process

Once you have decided to make an anatomical donation contact the institution of your choice and fill out the necessary paperwork. After you have been accepted carry your donor card with you at all times. Inform your family of your decision to donate and provide them with the names and numbers of the organization so that they can make contact upon your demise.

Remember that under certain circumstances the organization may deny your donation. Most organizations require you to weigh between 100-250 lbs. They won't accept a corpse that is morbidly obese. They will also not accept cadavers that have communicable diseases, had organs removed, been embalmed, have excessive edema, or have excessively decomposed.

Cadaver donation is not for everyone and it isn't a subject that many people like to think about, but if you have an interest in furthering medical science it is something that you may want to consider.

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    • profile image

      Jane Aguilar 

      6 years ago

      I am a medical student at GCU in Phoenix, AZ and am currently in Human Anatomy Dissection; I never knew the true gift of these donations until this class and am truly grateful for the generosity. It is extremely helpful.

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 

      7 years ago

      This is a great article. I'm going to look into the various organizations.

    • Philpott Online profile image

      Philpott Online 

      7 years ago

      I am an organ donor and like the idea of being able to save another life. Donating my body to science seems like the same idea.

    • profile image

      Julie 

      7 years ago

      I actually work for a privately owned, nationwide, whole body donation program--Science Care (www.sciencecare.com). Being in this industry, I can tell you that donation is an absolutely amazing gift and we are so grateful for the people who donate so generously. It is so helpful to future generations of doctors and researchers.

      One thing I will caution folks about is to make sure and do your research about whole body donation programs. We recommend only signing up with a program that holds to the highest quality and safety standards and, at the least, has been accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks. You can see the full list of accredited non-transplant tissue banks on their website: www.aatb.org. This is really the only way to ensure that you are donating to a legitimate and ethical organization.

      https://www.facebook.com/ScienceCare

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