Organ and Body Donations
Organ and Body Donations should be a part of “The Conversation” you have with all of your family.
Are you interested in donating your body to science but still have questions about the process?
It’s a way to get a free cremation and do good for many people.
Since there’s a lot of mystery and confusion surrounding whole body donation, hear is information to address some myths and explain the realities.
Myth: The organ donor symbol on the back of a driver’s license is sufficient documentation for body donation.
Fact: Organ donation is vastly different than body donation. They are completely separate programs with entirely different consenting processes.
Myth: Organ and body donation is a common option at the time of death.
Fact: Unfortunately, the circumstances in which people pass away prohibit the vast majority of people from donating organs for transplantation. Individuals who pass away at home, in a long-term or short-term care facility are not eligible for live organ donation. However, they may qualify for secondary donation, which includes corneas, whole eyes, skin, and bones. Tertiary donation arrangements such as whole body donation is an alternative for individuals who are unable to donate for transplant purposes yet still wish to contribute to research and education.
Myth: Cause of death is determined during the body donation process.
Fact: Typically, cause of death is determined by the attending physician or the donor’s primary care physician, who then documents it on the death certificate. Whole body donation programs do not perform autopsies on donors. An autopsy is typically only performed when no witnesses are present at the time of death, if foul play is suspected, or if the family requests and pays for one. Autopsied individuals typically are not eligible for whole body donation.
Myth: Only the organs from a donated body will ultimately be used by researchers.
Fact: Whole body donation programs exist to assist institutions and organizations that rely on specimens, either in whole or part, to conduct research and training. Educational institutions use bodies for anatomy classes, and organizations developing medical devices and/or less invasive surgical procedures will often utilize whole body specimens. Other organizations may utilize certain sections of a body that correspond to their area of specialization (orthopedics, cardiology, trauma procedures, etc.).
Myth: Once all paperwork is completed, a donor is automatically accepted.
Fact: Even donors who seem like excellent candidates at the time of a whole body donation program’s pre-screening may not be eligible upon death. Furthermore, even after the point of acceptance, donors are occasionally declined. For example, inclement weather or unavoidable delays may prevent transportation or the next of kin may become unreachable. Many smaller donation programs and university programs may decline a donor due to lack of storage space and need.
Myth: Donors that are sick or have a disease do not qualify for whole body donation.
Fact: Researchers and educators often need donors with certain diseases and conditions. Most disease processes, including cancer, are acceptable, and there typically is no age limit. Depending on the program, a few diseases may result in decline, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B or C. Other possible health-related reasons for a particular program’s decline include a history of illegal drug use and being severely over or underweight.
Myth: If the zombie apocalypse occurs, donated bodies will be the most powerful and the first to roam the earth.
Fact: Who knows? We threw this on the list just to make sure you’re still paying attention.
Myth: An individual must pre-register far in advance to be accepted for body donation at the time of death.
Fact: Some programs will accept body donations after death, even if the individual was not registered at the time of passing. Many individuals make this decision for their loved one who is close to passing or has just passed away.
Myth: Individuals with tattoos and/or pacemakers do not qualify for whole body donation.
Fact: Individuals with tattoos, piercings, pacemakers, prosthetics, and other physical alterations can donate.
Myth: There are hidden costs.
Fact: Some whole body donation programs offer services that result in no costs to donors or their families. These programs cover all expenses related to the donation process. Although programs vary in what no-cost includes, services such as transportation, cremation, a copy of a death certificate, and the return of cremated remains to family is typical. Optional expenses unrelated to donation such as memorial services, obituaries, interment, or floral arrangements are typically not included.
Myth: Programs will pay me now for body donation later.
Fact: It’s unlawful to provide monetary incentives for an individual’s body donation prior to and after death in certain states.
Myth: When cremains (ashes) are received, they include ashes from multiple people or ashes of another person.
Fact: After an institution or facility is finished with the body, they cremate the remains and send them back to the family or loved ones. It’s unlawful to cremate more than one individual at a time and licensed crematories are very closely audited and overseen by legislation. Reputable whole body donation programs conduct multiple security identification measures that ensure families are receiving the cremains of their loved ones.
Organ Donation Resources – (Have meaningful conversations and learn about at this important topic any time)
There are unending needs for transplantable organs and parts and whole bodies and parts for research and medical education
Age and infirmity does not reduce the value for many types of donations. Eye donations are actually cornea lens donations. A donor’s poor vision is corrected for the recipient so most everyone can be a donor of vision. These are a few of the many education and donation resource organizations around the US. In an internet search enter your city or country and what you are willing to donate. Many websites will come up. What you can do know is to let your family know now verbally and in writing what your wishes are so timely decisions can be made.
Ten uses for your body after you die
By CNN Sr. Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen
(CNN) — Like many Americans, you probably think you’re pretty charitable. Perhaps you donate money to the needy or ill, give away your old clothes, volunteer at your child’s school or participate in holiday gift drives in December.
But you may be missing something. As you’re charitable in life, you could also be charitable in death. This holiday season — Halloween — you could start thinking about a kind of ghoulish donation: your body.
Nathan Bazzel has already made his plans. In 2001, he signed all the necessary documents to donate his body parts to the Mütter Museum, a part of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. A friend of his worked there, and he knew that researchers from around the world came to look at its vast collection of body parts.
Bazzel, 38, is HIV-positive, and he wants scientists to learn from his remains.
“If just one person can take a look at my skull and kidneys, which have suffered from HIV and the drugs used to treat it, and learn something from them — what a magnificent gift,” he said.
He’s so impassioned that the same year he signed the forms for his postmortem donation, he donated his right hip, which had to be replaced because of damage from an HIV drug, and then three years later, he donated his left hip.
Bazzel, who became the college’s communications director two years ago, has already seen the benefits of having real human body parts on display: When high school students come in and see his hips’ deformities, his lecture to them on the importance of safe sex takes on a whole new meaning.
Of course, being on display in a museum isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. So in the spirit of the season, here are 10 ways you can put your body to use after you die. In many cases, you can do more than one.
Donate your organs
Nineteen people die every day waiting for an organ such as a kidney, heart, lung, liver or pancreas. Learn about organ donation,sign an organ donor card, tell your family your wishes, and don’t be misled by myths about organ donation. If you like, you can donate some organs but not others.
Donate your tissue
Your bones, ligaments, heart valves and corneas might not be of use to you in the hereafter, but they can certainly help someone else. Learn about tissue donation, sign a card, and again, tell your family members you’ve done this so they won’t be surprised when the time comes. As with organs, you can specify what types of tissues you’d like to donate.
Will your body to a university
Help a future doctor learn about the human body by becoming a cadaver dissected by first-year medical students. Be sure to ask exactly what will happen to your body. While you might be used for dissection, you could be used for other purposes within the school, and you might not have much control.
Help doctors practice their skills
If you’d prefer to be worked on by folks with more experience, actual, not future, doctors can learn from your body. At the Medical Education and Research Institute in Memphis, Tennessee, doctors brush up on their skills and learn new techniques; it’s the training facility for organizations such as the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the North American Skull Base Society and the International Spinal Injection Society.
Doctors get to practice (and possibly make mistakes on) the dead rather than the living. In return, the institute provides for transportation for your body to Memphis, pays for cremation once the work is done and returns the ashes to your family (or, if you prefer, to an interment facility in Memphis).
If you like the idea, you can fill out a donor form. If you’d prefer to first see where your body’s headed, the institute welcomes visitors.
Leave your body to “the body farm”
Did you ever wonder how, on TV shows, detectives know the time of death just by examining the body? Cops can thank the folks at the University of Tennessee’s Forensic Anthropology Center for helping them figure it out. “The body farm,” as its known, has “650 skeletons and growing” scattered over 2.5 acres in Knoxville, according to its website. Researchers and students study bodies in varying stages of decay to help anthropologists and law enforcement officials answer important questions, such as body identification and time of death analysis. (For a fascinating account of a visit to the center, see Mary Roach’s book “Stiff.”)
If you want to become one of those skeletons after you die, you’re in luck, as they make donation pretty easy at the Body Farm. Get their Body Donation Packet, fill out their Body Donation Document and complete the biological questionnaire. They’ll want a photo of you to help them learn more about “facial reconstruction and photographic superimposition as a means for identifying unknown individuals,” according to the center’s website.
If you live in Tennessee and within 200 miles of Knoxville, you’re really in luck, because they’ll take care of all the costs. If not, your family will be responsible for arranging transportation to the center.
Once they’re done with you at the Body Farm, your family doesn’t get your remains back, so if that’s important to you, this isn’t your best option.
Become a crash test cadaver
Plastic crash test dummies are all well and good, but there’s nothing like a real human body to simulate what happens in a car crash. You can will your body to the Wayne State University School of Medicine to become a crash test cadaver by filling out its Body Bequest Form. The form is for donation to the university, but “if a person specifically requests that their body be used in safety testing that is ongoing at the Bio-Mechanics lab, then we would honor that wish,” according to an e-mail from Barbara Rosso-Norgan, the school’s mortuary supervisor.
Give your body to a broker
We don’t mean a stockbroker; we mean a body broker, who will take your parts and get them to scientists who will use them for research, training and education.
Generally speaking, here’s the upside of these groups: They pay to have your body transported to their facility, and with the parts that are not used in research, they pay for cremation and to have the ashes returned to your family (some will, if you prefer, distribute them at sea). This can save your family a lot of money.
The downside: You don’t know where your parts will go. “We don’t guarantee that we can use the body in any specific research program, and that’s because our research is always changing,” said Kristin Dorn, community relations manager at Science Care. “Your intent is to donate to science, not a specific research project.”
Some brokers will allow you to say what areas you’d prefer your parts not go to. If this is important to you, find the broker who offers this option. “If someone is ready to donate their body to science, they will definitely need to do some research,” Dorn said.
Send your body on tour
If you’ve been to the “Body Worlds” exhibit, you know what plastination is: a process of posing and hardening a body so it appears life-like.
You, too, could become one of these bodies on display by donating to the Institute for Plastination. If you live in the United States or Canada, your body will be embalmed on your own continent and then shipped to Germany, where technicians will perform theplastination process. They’ll remove fat and water, “impregnate” your corpse with rubber silicone and position it into a frozen pose (you might be, say, running or sitting cross-legged or performing ballet or perhaps riding a horse). Your body is then hardened into that position with gas, light or heat. The entire process takes about a year, according to the group’s website.
Your family pays to get your body to the embalming location, and the Institute for Plastination incurs the shipping costs to Germany.
There are rules about donation. You can be old, and you can be an organ donor, but if you died in a violent manner, it might not work out, as your body must be “largely intact” in order to donate, according to the institute’s website.
Also, there’s no guarantee your body will end up in one of the five exhibits. Some plastinated bodies are sent to medical schools and training programs, and you don’t get to decide the destination of your corpse, according to Georgina Gomez, the institute’s director of development.
Become a skeleton
Researchers from around the world visit the extensive skeleton collection at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico.
The ground rules: Your family pays to get your body to the museum’s facility in Albuquerque, and your remains (besides your bones, of course) get cremated and disposed of; they don’t go back to your family. Researchers who want to work with the skeletons have to apply to the museum’s Laboratory of Human Osteology; the skeletons are not put on display for anyone at the museum to see.
If you’d like to be put on display, see below.
Be on display at a museum
Like Bazzel, you can donate parts of your body to the Mutter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
If you do so, you’ll be a part of a pretty rarified group. Anna Dhody, the museum’s curator since 2004, has received only three inquiries about donation after death, including Bazzel’s.
“One woman contacted me and said, ‘I have a 120-degree curvature of my spine. Would you like it when I’m done with it?’ and I said, ‘Yes, please,’ ” Dhody recalled.
Although the museum is particularly interested in bodies with abnormalities, it’ll also consider taking your remains even if there’s nothing particularly pathological about them. Either way, your family will have to foot the bill to get you to Philly. To learn more, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Organ donation: Don’t let these myths confuse you
Unsure about donating organs for transplant? Don’t let misinformation keep you from saving lives. Here is part of an article from the Mayo Clinic
Over 100,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for an organ donation. Unfortunately, many may never get the call saying that a suitable donor organ — and a second chance at life — has been found.
It can be hard to think about what’s going to happen to your body after you die, let alone donating your organs and tissue. But being an organ donor is a generous and worthwhile decision that can be a lifesaver. If you’ve never considered organ donation or delayed becoming a donor because of possibly inaccurate information, here are answers to some common organ donation myths and concerns.
Myth: If I agree to donate my organs, the hospital staff won’t work as hard to save my life.
Fact: When you go to the hospital for treatment, doctors focus on saving your life — not somebody else’s. You’ll be seen by a doctor whose specialty most closely matches your particular emergency.
Myth: Maybe I won’t really be dead when they sign my death certificate.
Fact: Although it’s a popular topic in the tabloids, in reality, people don’t start to wiggle their toes after they’re declared dead. In fact, people who have agreed to organ donation are given more tests (at no charge to their families) to determine that they’re truly dead than are those who haven’t agreed to organ donation.
Myth: Organ donation is against my religion.
Fact: Organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most major religions. This includes Roman Catholicism, Islam, most branches of Judaism and most Protestant faiths. If you’re unsure of or uncomfortable with your faith’s position on donation, ask a member of your clergy.
Myth: I’m under age 18. I’m too young to make this decision.
Fact: That’s true, in a legal sense. But your parents can authorize this decision. You can express to your parents your wish to donate, and your parents can give their consent knowing that it’s what you wanted. Children, too, are in need of organ transplants, and they usually need organs smaller than those an adult can provide.
Myth: An open-casket funeral isn’t an option for people who have donated organs or tissues.
Fact: Organ and tissue donation doesn’t interfere with having an open-casket funeral. The donor’s body is clothed for burial, so there are no visible signs of organ or tissue donation. For bone donation, a rod is inserted where bone is removed. With skin donation, a very thin layer of skin similar to a sunburn peel is taken from the donor’s back. Because the donor is clothed and lying on his or her back in the casket, no one can see any difference.
Myth: I’m too old to donate. Nobody would want my organs.
Fact: There’s no defined cutoff age for donating organs. The decision to use your organs is based on strict medical criteria, not age. Don’t disqualify yourself prematurely. Let the doctors decide at your time of death whether your organs and tissues are suitable for transplantation.
Myth: I’m not in the best of health. Nobody would want my organs or tissues.
Fact: Very few medical conditions automatically disqualify you from donating organs. The decision to use an organ is based on strict medical criteria. It may turn out that certain organs are not suitable for transplantation, but other organs and tissues may be fine. Don’t disqualify yourself prematurely. Only medical professionals at the time of your death can determine whether your organs are suitable for transplantation.
Myth: I’d like to donate one of my kidneys now, but I wouldn’t be allowed to do that unless one of my family members is in need.
Fact: While that used to be the case, it isn’t any longer. Whether it’s a distant family member, friend or complete stranger you want to help, you can donate a kidney through certain transplant centers. If you decide to become a living donor, you will undergo extensive questioning to ensure that you are aware of the risks and that your decision to donate isn’t based on financial gain. You will also undergo testing to determine if your kidneys are in good shape and whether you can live a healthy life with just one kidney.
Myth: Rich and famous people go to the top of the list when they need a donor organ.
Fact: The rich and famous aren’t given priority when it comes to allocating organs. It may seem that way because of the amount of publicity generated when celebrities receive a transplant, but they are treated no differently from anyone else. The reality is that celebrity and financial status are not considered in organ allocation.
Myth: My family will be charged if I donate my organs.
Fact: The organ donor’s family is never charged for donating. The family is charged for the cost of all final efforts to save your life, and those costs are sometimes misinterpreted as costs related to organ donation. Costs for organ removal go to the transplant recipient.
Why you should consider organ donation
Now that you have the facts, you can see that being an organ donor can make a big difference, and not just to one person. By donating your organs after you die, you can save or improve as many as 50 lives. And many families say that knowing their loved one helped save other lives helped them cope with their loss.
It’s especially important to consider becoming an organ donor if you belong to an ethnic minority. Minorities including African-Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and Hispanics are more likely than whites to have certain chronic conditions that affect the kidney, heart, lung, pancreas and liver. Certain blood types are more prevalent in ethnic minority populations. Because matching blood type is usually necessary for transplants, the need for minority donor organs is especially high.
Below are some of the websites for American donation resources. For local donation resources you can also do a web search for what you are interested in donating and your state, region or country. It’s important to note that the age, condition and reason for the death of the person should not deter you from signing up for eventual donation. The corneas of a person’s eye can give someone vision. Poor vision of the donor is corrected when making the transplant. There is medical research going on for every illness and condition and donors are needed for research and medical education for every situation.
American Association of Tissue Banks – AATB.org
American Society of Transplant Surgeons – asts.org
Association of Organ Procurement Organizations – aopo.org
Children’s Organ Transplant Association – cota.org
Donate Life America – DonateLifeAmerica.org
Eye Bank Association of America – restoresight.org
Life Legacy Foundation – LifeLegacy.org
Life Link Foundation – lifelinkfoundation.org
MedCure a National Organ and Body Donation Resource – MedCure.org
National Donor Family Council – kidney.org/transplantation/donorFamilies
National Living Donor Assistance Center – livingdonorassistance.org
National Kidney Foundation – kidney.org
North American Transplant Coordinators Organization – natco1.org
Eye Bank Association of America – RestoreSight.org
Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients – ustransplant.org
The Gift of a Lifetime – organtransplants.org
The Heather Trew Foundation – TheHeatherTrewFoundation.org
The National Transplant Assistance Fund – transplantFund.org
The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network – optn.transplant.hrsa.gov
Transplant Living – TransplantLiving.org
Transplant Recipients International Organization – trioweb.org
Transweb – University of Michigan Transplant Center – transweb.org
United Network for Organ Sharing – unos.org
US Government on organ and tissue donation – organdonor.gov
The US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health Med Line
From the book and website Heartfelt Memorial Services: You Guide for Planning Meaningful Funerals, Celebrations of Life and Times of Remembrance HeartfeltmemorialServices.com
Dave Savage and Beverly Molander- Educators, Authors, Officiants and Speakers