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5 Little Known Facts About Donating Your Body to Science
Below are five little known facts that you should know if you’re considering body donation after death.
5 Little Known Facts About Donating Your Body to Science
Female laboratory worker looking in microscope

In recent years people have been exploring end of life options that are less conventional. Some options are new concepts that are only available in a handful of states, like composting a body. Others have actually been available for years, but they just haven’t been very common. Donating your body to science is one of the latter options.

Events like the pandemic have increased interest in body donation as more people want their death to provide some sort of benefit, or at the very least, minimize how much of a negative impact it has. While body donation is a philanthropic choice that can save lives, people need to be fully aware of what it means before making the decision to donate their body to science.

Little Known Fact #1 – Less Than 1% of People Donate Their Body to Science

There’s a huge need for body donation, because donated bodies are in short supply. Roughly 20,000 bodies are donated to science each year in the U.S. That works out to be less than 1% of people who die annually. This is an extremely small number compared to the 60% of Americans that are signed up to be organ donors.

Little Known Fact #2 – There’s More Than One Way to Donate a Body

When people think of donating their body to science they envision their body going to a medical center to be looked over in a surgical environment. While that is one possible scenario it’s far from the only one.

Bodies that are donated to science can end up in:

  • -A medical research center.
  • -A university research facility.
  • -For-profit non-transplant tissue banks.
  • -Body farms that are used for forensic studies.
  • -Crash test facilities.

Little Known Fact #3 – Using Bodies for Science Got a Bad Wrap From the Past

Some of the first records of dissecting deceased bodies for medical research are from Egypt. The practice was done using the bodies of executed criminals. That practice continued for centuries, spreading to countries in Europe. So, the idea of a person’s body being used for science had a negative connotation linked to crime.

Then there was the grave robbing that began in an effort to supply medical researchers with bodies. In the U.S. and Europe people were paid to dig up bodies, which made the use of bodies for science even less appealing. Body snatching calmed down once governments started letting medical facilities use unclaimed bodies.

That checkered past gave body donation a bad wrap of being something that happens to the worst type of people or those that are forgotten by their families. That’s not the case today, but that bad wrap has been hard to shake off.

Little Known Fact #4 – You May Have to Register for Body Donation in Advance – And You Could Be Rejected

Some body donation programs require that you register in advance. After death the body needs to be picked up within an hour so having things lined up in advance is important. But just because you registered for a body donation program doesn’t mean things will go as planned.

There are instances when a donated body may be rejected. This is common if the person contracted an infectious disease before death. Other circumstances that can lead to rejection include a person being severely underweight or overweight at death, physical trauma and the body being sent to a medical examiner first.

Little Known Fact #5 – Bodies Are Cremated After 1-3 Years

Anyone who makes the choice to donate their body to science is ultimately deciding to be cremated – it will just take some time. Donated bodies are used for anywhere from 1 to 3 years before the research is complete. At that time the medical facility coordinates with a local crematorium to dispose of the body or does it on their own if equipped.

After the cremation the family may or may not receive the remains. Always check before signing up for a program if the intention is to get the cremains once the research is done.

Direct Cremate can help you plan for cremation after body donation. We also specialize in cost-effective direct cremation for those who aren’t interested in donating their body to science but want end of life services that minimize environmental impact.

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