Have you ever considered leaving your body to science? It’s something people often joke about. But can you? How do you do it? Who would want it? What happens if you do?
Donating your body (or cadaver as it is medically known) to scientific research and experimentation after death can be a viable option if you are willing to arrange it before you die. It can help advance medical science; could potentially save premature deaths or suffering for many in the future and help train student doctors.
There are reputable Body Donation Programmes in Australia run by the main universities in each of the various states. You can register your intention to donate, however, there are a number of hoops you will have to jump through before your body will actually be accepted. So, if you are thinking about it as an option so that your family will not have to pay funeral costs, you need to take into account that it can’t be guaranteed.
What Reasons Might your Body be Rejected?
There a quite a few reasons your body may be rejected, including:
- Something in your medical or personal history (as revealed in your application). As long as you are over 18 and of reasonable mind, age doesn’t matter but things like being obese or malnourished or having a certain disease might;
- When a mandatory blood test is taken and it reveals a communicable disease or something else deemed unsuitable;
- If your next of kin objects;
- If the institution lacks storage room;
- Or anything other reason they might come up with!
What Happens if your Body is Rejected?
If the cadaver is rejected for any reason the next of kin will be notified and they will need to take over and make alternative arrangements for your body disposal.
So What Happens if your Body is Accepted?
If the cadaver is accepted, all the exterior and interior organs will be professionally dissected and examined including the skin. They can keep your body for up to 4 years but generally, it will be a shorter period than that. Tissue samples may be permanently stored for future research. After all the examinations have concluded the body will be cremated and next of kin notified.
Who Pays for What?
No payment is made to the estate for the body. It is a donation. Of course, you can always also leave a financial donation in your will to the institution to help with their ongoing research too. But this does not guarantee your body will be accepted. The institution will pay all costs involved in transporting the body if the distance is no more than 100 kms. They will also cover the cremation costs but not anything to do with a memorial service. Burials are not covered in the costs associated with the donation so if you wish for your remains to be buried, a pre-paid plot and burial arrangements need to be set up beforehand. All your wishes are best included in your Advance Care Plan and will.
For more information on how to find out if there is a body donor program nearby, contact your nearest university, hospital or medical research facility.
Organ Donation – Another Gift for the Future
Perhaps you don’t want to participate in a Body Donation Programme but want it to be useful in the future then you may prefer to register for Organ Donation. This is also best arranged in advance.
Some of the interesting facts about Organ Donation include:
- One organ and tissue donor could save the life or improve the quality of life of up to 10 people.
- There are fewer organ donors these days as most people don’t die in a way that makes organ donation possible. Most donors have come from ICU and die while on a ventilator
- Tissue donation can be done up to 24 hours after death so many more people can donate tissue.
- You can donate any number of different internal organs including heart, lungs, liver and pancreas.
- Other possible donations can include corneas, heart valves and bone.
If organ donation is something you wish to be involved in after you die, it is best to register this too and include it in your Advance Care Plan along with the relevant documents.
For more information, the Organ and Tissue Authority of the Australian Government offer a DonateLife.gov.au program.
ServicesAustralia has an Australian Organ Donor Register
And keep it in a safe place!
Jenny England is a writer and illustrator living in Kiama, Australia. Over the years she has worked as a journalist and has had numerous non-fiction articles published in a wide variety of magazines. Now retired from the hustle and bustle of daily life she is writing about serious aged care and end of life matters. She also writes speculative fiction when she isn’t busy with her other hobbies: knitting, astrology and mail art.