A cheap death: How to do­nate your body to sci­ence

Yuma Sun - - DESERT LIFE - Jim Miller

DEAR SAVVY SE­NIOR — What can you tell me about body do­na­tion pro­grams? With lit­tle to no sav­ings, I’m look­ing for a free or cheap way to dis­pose of my body af­ter I die. – Old and Broke

DEAR BROKE – If you’re look­ing to elim­i­nate your funeral and burial costs, as well as help ad­vance med­i­cal re­search, do­nat­ing your body to sci­ence is a great op­tion to con­sider. Here’s what you should know.

Body Do­na­tions

It’s es­ti­mated that each year, at least 20,000 peo­ple do­nate their whole body, af­ter death, to med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties through­out the coun­try to be used in med­i­cal re­search projects, anatomy lessons and sur­gi­cal prac­tice.

Af­ter us­ing your body, th­ese fa­cil­i­ties will then pro­vide free cre­ma­tion — which typ­i­cally costs $600 to $4,000 — and will ei­ther bury or scat­ter your ashes in a lo­cal ceme­tery or re­turn them to your fam­ily, usu­ally within a year or two.

And, just in case you’re won­der­ing, your fam­ily will not be paid for the use of your body. Fed­eral and state laws pro­hibit it.

Here are a few other things you need to know and check into, to help you de­ter­mine whether whole­body do­na­tion is right for you:

• Ac­cep­tance rules: Most body do­na­tion pro­grams will not ac­cept bodies that are ex­tremely obese, or those that have in­fec­tious dis­eases like hep­ati­tis, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, H.I.V. or MRSA. Bodies that suf­fered ex­ten­sive trauma won’t be ac­cepted ei­ther.

• Or­gan do­na­tion: Most pro­grams re­quire that you do­nate your whole body in its en­tirety. So if you want to be an or­gan donor (with the ex­cep­tion of your eyes), you won’t qual­ify to be a whole body donor too.

• Spe­cial re­quests: Most pro­grams will not al­low you to do­nate your body for a spe­cific pur­pose. You give them the body and they de­cide how to use it.

• Memo­rial op­tions: Most pro­grams re­quire al­most im­me­di­ate trans­port of the body af­ter death, so there’s no funeral. If your fam­ily wants a memo­rial ser­vice they can have one with­out the body. Or, some pro­grams of­fer memo­rial ser­vices at their fa­cil­ity at a later date with­out the re­mains.

• Body trans­port­ing: Most pro­grams will cover trans­port­ing your body to their fa­cil­ity within a cer­tain dis­tance. How­ever, some may charge.

What To Do

If you think you want to do­nate your body, it’s best to make ar­range­ments in ad­vance with a body do­na­tion pro­gram in your area. Most pro­grams are of­fered through univer­sity-af­fil­i­ated med­i­cal schools. To find one near you, the Univer­sity of Flor­ida main­tains a list of U.S. pro­grams and their con­tact in­for­ma­tion at Anatbd.acb.med.ufl. edu/us­pro­grams.

In ad­di­tion to the med­i­cal schools, there are also pri­vate or­ga­ni­za­tions like BioGift (BioGift.org) and Sci­ence Care (ScienceCare.com) that ac­cept whole body do­na­tions too. Some of th­ese or­ga­ni­za­tions will even al­low or­gan do­na­tion be­cause they deal in body parts as well as whole ca­dav­ers.

If you don’t have in--

ter­net ac­cess, you can get help by call­ing the Na­tional Fam­ily Ser­vice Desk, which op­er­ates a free body do­na­tion re­fer­ral ser­vice dur­ing busi­ness hours at 800-727-0700.

Once you lo­cate a pro­gram in your area, call and ask them to mail you an in­for­ma­tion/regis­tra­tion packet that will ex­plain ex­actly how their pro­gram works.

To sign up, you’ll sim­ply need to fill out a cou­ple of forms and re­turn them. But, you can al­ways change your mind by con­tact­ing the pro­gram and re­mov­ing your name

from their regis­tra­tion list. Some pro­grams may ask that you make your with­drawal in writ­ing.

Af­ter you’ve made ar­range­ments, you’ll need to tell your fam­ily mem­bers so they will know what to do and who to con­tact af­ter your death. It’s also a good idea to tell your doc­tors, so they know your fi­nal wishes too.

Send your se­nior ques­tions to: Savvy Se­nior, P.O. Box 5443, Nor­man, OK 73070, or visit SavvySe­nior.org. Jim Miller is a con­trib­u­tor to the NBC To­day show and au­thor of “The Savvy Se­nior” book.

Savvy Se­nior

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