Whole body donation means you consent to donate your entire body upon your death to allow medical research and education to benefit from the use of your body in furthering medical knowledge. Whole body donation is also referred to as “science” or “willed body program”. In every way possible, the foundation honors your decision by adhering to the strictest guidelines through the entire donation process. Donation is no cost to the donor or donor’s family, and each donor and family is treated with compassion, care, respect and dignity.
Whole body donation takes place after death and can help countless numbers of people while leaving a small eco-footprint. Those who have given the gift of body donation have contributed to the advancement of treatments for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, ALS, arthritis and degenerative joint disease, spinal injuries, hip replacement surgery, infectious diseases, heart disease and much more. Gifting your body for the benefit of medical research and education leaves a legacy of hope, happiness and independence for those you leave behind.
The most common question about how to donate to the foundation is, “who can donate?” The answer is simple. Most everyone will meet criteria for donation, including those with cancer, heart disease, arthritis and diabetes. Pre-registration is not required and there is no upper age limit but donors must be 18 years of age or older. For the protection and safety of the recovery staff and medical community we serve, we are unable to accept persons with HIV, hepatitis B and C, active tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases. Most people who want to donate can with the exception of people in the states of Minnesota and New Jersey due to specific state laws. In addition, donations from outside the United States are currently unavailable. If you have questions about our acceptance criteria, please contact us (888) 670-0802, we are here to help.
Families discuss the whole body donation at various times in their lives. Some discuss this long in advance of end-of-life; for others, this is a discussion that happens near the time of death, or even after death.
We’ve outlined the basic procedure for donating your body and made the process as straightforward as possible, not only to be efficient, but to keep it very simple for your loved ones or caregivers at a difficult time.
- If death has occurred an assessment will be performed by a knowledgeable and trained professional representative of the foundation to determine if the patient meets criteria for current research or training programs. At this time if the criteria are met all required paperwork will be finalized.
- If under hospice care or terminally ill, this medical screening can be done ahead of time with a no cost pre-screening program that allows patients, families, and healthcare providers to know with certainty if a donor meets current research criteria before the time of passing. Once a determination has been made, the foundation will work with the donor, legal next of kin, and/or healthcare provider to complete as much of the donation paperwork as legally allowed. This drastically reduces the process for the next of kin and healthcare provider at the time of the patient’s passing. At the time of passing, a minimal number of follow- up questions will be asked and any remaining legally required paperwork will be finalized.
- Upon acceptance, all costs of donation, including transportation, filing of the death certificate and completion of all necessary paperwork are included.
- The tissue is recovered and used for a variety of medical research and education projects, such as cancer research, Alzheimer’s research, and training surgeons on the latest medical advancements.
The tissue not used for research is cremated and the next-of-kin is notified at the conclusion of the donation process to assure the mailing address to whom the remains will be returned which usually takes place within 4-8 weeks.
- Following donation, a letter that updates the family on current research projects and the impact their loved one has made to society will be sent.
- The family also receives a certificate commemorating the planting of a tree in honor of the donor at the one-year anniversary.
While whole body donation would prohibit a traditional open casket funeral, your decision to donate is not a decision to deny your family the opportunity to celebrate your life as they see fit and will not affect your memorial service planning. Many families choose to have a memorial service prior to or after receiving the cremated remains. For cremated remains of the donor to be present for the service, please allow at least 4 to 8 weeks after donation for cremated remains to be returned to the family. Many families who consent to whole body donation still plan and conduct memorial services at their funeral home, church or other location. This provides friends and family with the opportunity to begin healing following their loss. To help the family with this process we provide our Memorial Service Planner which is a step by step guide at no cost.
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